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September 27, 1999
BFI Sets Its Eyes High
Shanthi Shankarkumar in Chicago
For the last two years, many of the 600 employees at the Lisle-Naperville branch of Lucent Technologies have held a lunch-time fund raiser at Diwali time for an organization that helps the blind in India.
This year too the 'Festival of Lights' takes on a deeper meaning for the volunteers of the Blind Foundation of India. For having raised $ 810,000 in its first decade, with $ 196,000 of it last year, the BFI is determined to reach $ one million by the new millennium.
The Naperville, Illinois-based organization began with a chance meeting with the founder of the National Association of the Blind in India, Dr Rajendra Vyas and Dr Manu Vora of AT&T Bell Labs -- now at Lucent Technologies. Four of Dr Vora's co-workers Raj Baxi, Bimal Kothari, Nilesh Kothari and Navin Kothari were also present.
Dr Vyas, who is blind, told them there were 13 million blind in India, or one out of every three blind people in the world is an Indian. Surely, the one million Indians living in this country could chip in to help fight the darkness.
BFI founder-president Vora, a customs manger with Lucent Technologies, entered the US as a student in 1969. A chemical engineer, he went on to do his master's and Ph D and then stayed on. He has been with Lucent for 16 years.
Dr Vora has widened his network of volunteers. There are about 150 volunteers who collect funds and spread information about the foundation. There is also a youth network. They also bond with other organizations and arrange fund-raising cultural programs.
BFI also has a supporter in the United Kingdom, Krishna Shah, who has raised 250,000 pounds. The American organization works closely with NAB and the Ramakrishna Mission in India.
At least 250,000 people have been treated at the BFI-sponsored eye camps. Seventeen thousand free cataract operations have been conducted, 20,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and given vitamin A to save their sight, 2,000 Braille and mathematics kits have been distributed and 47 medical vans have been donated in 16 Indian states.
Says Dr Vora, "We get lots of letters from the NAB and the Ramakrishna Mission telling us how our efforts have helped thousands of rural people."
BFI does not localize its efforts to any one particular state or group. Vora has got Lucent Technologies to lend their support. The Lucent website (www.lucent.com/news/about/comunity/bfi) focuses on the BFI activities, and the Lucent Foundation recently awarded a Lucent CARES Grant to the BFI.
Sign Up with the ICM/AT&T Association Loyalty Program by calling 1-800-426-0015 (designate BFI-#10288). ICM/AT&T will contribute up to five per cent of your AT&T long distance call costs to BFI at no extra charge to you.
For more information contact the Blind Foundation of India, PO Box 3971, Naperville, IL-60567-3971; tel: (630) 637-9301(evenings and weekends); web site: http://www.lucent.com/news/about/community/bfi
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