Letter to the Future from Brian Foster, the Executive Director of Operation Eyesight Universal

Tell us about your role and how you are contributing to the society:

As Executive Director of Operation Eyesight Universal, a Canadian-based international development organization, I’m proud to lead an international team of 40 professionals working together to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries. Thanks to our Canadian supporters, we’re preventing blindness and restoring sight for children, women and men living in regions of Africa and South Asia – places where blindness can be deadly, especially to those who are very young, old or poor. We work in partnership with local governments, medical professionals and community development teams, building essential resources that give all people, including the poorest, access to the eye care they need.

Presently, what do you like about Canada?

I love that Canadians have big hearts, that we believe in a world where everyone has equal access to quality health care, and most importantly, that we care about our global neighbours. And even though we may never meet the people we are helping, we continue giving our money or time to help others halfway across the world. All of us at Operation Eyesight are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve received from Canadians since our founding in 1963.

I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I can access quality health care services, including eye care services. I can schedule an annual eye exam and order a simple pair of eyeglasses without giving it a second thought. I can see the beauty of Canada’s shimmering lakes, rugged mountains, endless prairies, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. My children will never be forced out of their jobs due to an eye condition that is treatable, and my grandkids will never have to drop out of school because they can’t read the whiteboard at the front of the classroom.

I am truly proud and fortunate to call this great country my home.

Your Letter to the Future

Dear Canada,

“You can’t change the world, but you can change some people’s world.”

These were the motivating words of Art Jenkyns, the Calgarian who founded Operation Eyesight back in 1963. Art was inspired by Dr. Ben Gullison, a physician working at a mission hospital in Sompeta, India at the time. Dr. Ben had come home to Canada seeking support for his work amongst the poorest of the poor. After hearing about the critical need for eye care in India, Art was inspired to raise funds for people needing cataract surgery – and Operation Eyesight was born.

Over the years, Art became a tireless champion for blindness prevention and treatment. He travelled across Canada, speaking to churches, Rotary Clubs and anyone who would listen. He wanted every Canadian to know that they could make a difference in the world by supporting Operation Eyesight. During his lifetime, Art received many awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal and the Order of Canada. In addition to leading our organization for many years, he remained an active member of the board of directors until his passing in 2005.

All of us at Operation Eyesight, from Canada and around the world, are proud to work towards Art’s dream of a world free of avoidable blindness. Fifty-four years since our founding, we continue to provide “the best for the poorest,” just as Art and Dr. Ben envisioned. We’ve expanded the scope of our work to include regions of Africa and South Asia, and while we still help hospitals provide cataract surgeries for those in need, we’ve shifted our focus to deal with the root causes of avoidable blindness and to improve general health. We work collaboratively with our hospital and government partners to invest in sustainable treatment, prevention and community development – helping people today, and for generations to come.

Art left a tremendous legacy that continues to inspire our work today – and will no doubt inspire future leaders and change-makers. Because of Art’s passion to make the world a better place, generous Canadian donors have helped restore sight and prevent blindness for millions of children, women and men – and millions more will receive the precious gift of sight in the years to come.

Art was proud to be Canadian, and he was proud of Canadians for their commitment to helping others. On behalf of Art and those working to continue his legacy, THANK YOU, Canada!

Our work won’t end until we’ve eliminated avoidable blindness once and for all – For All The World To See!

Brian Foster
Executive Director
Operation Eyesight Universal