According to China’s Ministry of Health, China has approximately 4 million cataract victims, with 500,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. While cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens, are relatively inexpensive to reverse, poverty condemns far too many cataract victims to unnecessary blindness. This problem disproportionately affects rural areas, where poor hygienic conditions and long hours of physical labor outside in the sun can cause cataracts to occur among younger people and even children. Poverty and limited access to health care can make it very difficult for these people to obtain proper treatment. As a consequence, they spend their lives in darkness, waiting for help and often, sadly, waiting in despair.
In 1997, with the support from the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Ministry of Railways and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Mainland China, Lifeline Express Hospital Eye-Train (the Eye-Train) first embarked on its mission of light into China’s countryside, as a gift to the people of Mainland China.
With new trains being commissioned in 1999, 2002, and 2009, there are now four Eye-Trains in continuous operation, which together cure more than 13,000 cataract patients each year. From 1997 to 2012, over 130,000 cataract patients received free operations. This has not only enormously changed each patient’s own lives for the better, but has also brought hope and joy to their entire family.
The custom built Eye-Trains are equipped with the latest medical equipment and eye care technology. Each four compartment Eye-Train consists of a consultation clinic, a sanitization room, two operating theatres, a recovery room (with beds for patients), a multi-function conference room and living quarters for the medical team. The Eye-Train not only provides free surgical operations for poverty stricken cataract patients, but also facilitates cooperation between ophthalmologists from overseas and Mainland China.
The operational costs for the Eye-Trains are entirely funded by public donations. The Lifeline Express Hong Kong Foundation, a charity organized in Hong Kong, was formed in 1996 to raise money to support the operation of the Eye-Trains. In 2002, The Chinese Foundation for Lifeline Express was organized in Mainland China to enable Mainland organizations and people to join in the effort to raise money to support Lifeline Express. All donations, whether personal or from corporations, are tax deductible in Hong Kong or in the Mainland respectively. The Chinese Foundation for Lifeline Express is one of the 69 Foundations in China approved by the Chinese Government to receive tax deductible donations.
Lifeline Express is a gift of love and sharing. For every small donation and contribution, a pair of eyes can be healed, a life changed, and a family’s hope restored.