This is the tale of an ordinary individual who did an extraordinary thing.
As told by Kunal Kapoor, actor and co-founder of Ketto.
I meet a lot of interesting people in my profession as an actor. However, the individual I want to introduce to you is far removed from Bollywood. His is not a face you would have seen on the silver screen. But just like a film, he has a story that needs to be told.
It is common knowledge that in the age of technology and instant gratification, trying to get people’s attention – and holding it – is a Herculean task. That is another reason why this story – and this individual – are so incredible.
His name is Jasmeet Singh Gandhi. He is an ordinary 46-year-old working an ordinary job. What he managed to do, however, is truly extraordinary.
Jasmeet happened to come across Iksha Foundation, an NGO that works specifically towards the cause of eye cancer in children. He learned about the disease, how easily it could be prevented, and how many children have lost or will lose their lives because of it. And he decided to do something about it.
Since he had come across Iksha Foundation through RBL Bank, the company his wife works for, he began to map out a game plan with them. Jasmeet decided to start campaigning on Ketto to raise awareness and funds for the treatment of childhood eye cancer. Treatment for one child with cancer-affected eyes can rack up a bill of one lakh. So he also decided to draw attention to his campaign by bicycling an incredible 1,000 kilometres from Mumbai to Bangalore to raise awareness and funds. This idea formed because of his love for fitness, and the fact that he wanted a strong motivational factor to help push his campaign. A campaign he named Umeed 1000.
Umeed 1000 ran on Ketto for five weeks with the initial goal of 5 lakh rupees. Jasmeet later increased it to 10 lakhs when he realised it was a goal he may well be able to reach. What his campaign managed to raise was 24 lakh rupees. Rs.24,00,100 to be precise.
Jasmeet shares, “Since the awareness of this disease is very low, I had to meet a lot of people and organisations in person and explain to them the concept behind Umeed 1000 and the disease itself. Besides meeting a lot of people, we created a Facebook page and a Twitter handle (#umeed1000) which was used extensively while tweeting and posting on Facebook. We also used radio and press interviews to spread the word to a wider audience.”
“One-on-one interactions were most effective in convincing people to donate,” Jasmeet adds. “I reached out to approximately 200 people either via email, phone or a personal visit.” He also spread the word throughout all the RBL bank branches, so employees became aware of the campaign as well.
The reaction to Jasmeet’s campaign was that of amazement and empathy. “People were amazed that I would dare to undertake a journey of 1,000 kilometres. And there was, of course, a lot of empathy for the kids affected by this disease.”
The sobering facts that had moved Jasmeet to action also moved those he reached out to. What had drawn him to the cause was that children were needlessly affected by it. “Not many people know that Retinoblastoma (eye cancer) affects children between 2 months to 5 years. It is a disease that can be hereditary in nature and can be fatal. The good part is that it can be detected with basic physical examination and, if detected early, it has a high cure rate of 92-95%.”
Jasmeet’s campaign drew in seven corporate sponsors – RBL Bank, HPCL, Goqii, rediff.com, UFO movies, Titan and Hero cycles – and over a hundred individual supporters. “We were extremely lucky to get some tremendous response form a cross-section of family, friends, colleagues, and of course, corporate sponsors,” he acknowledges, adding, “We managed to collect and donate Rs.24 lakhs. It was a very fulfilling experience since this will be used to cure little kids who cannot afford the treatment.”
He continues, “I met the kids when I reached Bangalore and visited Narayana Netralaya, where they get treated. It was a humbling experience.”
He concludes, “I was lucky to have the full support of my family – my wife and daughters who encouraged me throughout. I am lucky to work for an organization like Microsoft that encourages such efforts, and with colleagues who cheered me on whole-heartedly as well.”
The progress of the children’s treatment will be shared by Iksha Foundation with all those involved – and those who want to be involved.
I hope Jasmeet’s incredible story and incredible heart has moved you as much as it moved me.
Below are some facts to be aware of.
Eye cancer can be fatal. Statistics show that one on every 20,000 babies is affected by retinoblastoma. Every day, four children are affected by this disease in India, and one in four dies from it.
Look for a white reflex in the centre of the eyeball. Visit the doctor right away if you spot something, or even if you find a child squinting one or both eyes. Remember, early detection can lead to a cure. Treatment for a child affected by retinoblastoma in both eyes comes to Rs.1 lakh on average, with the child requiring treatment till 12 years of age.
If you want to do something for this cause, start a campaign or support another cause here.