Crowd ‘steps up’ for impaired kids

ONE STEP AT A TIME::Thousands turned out for an aerobics charity event in Taipei that generated NT$1.2 million to help disadvantaged visually impaired kids

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, May 28, 2012 - Page 2

About 2,000 people did step aerobics in front of Taipei City Hall yesterday to express support for visually impaired children in developing countries.

The participants wore blue and green T-shirts with a picture of an eye printed on them and made an 80m-long formation in the shape of Taiwan’s tallest building — Taipei 101 — in the plaza in front of Taipei City Hall.

After a countdown, the crowd busted out aerobic moves and started stepping on their step platforms to the music until they symbolically reached “1,001” steps.

Among them were nine visually impaired Taiwanese children, eye doctors from Taiwan who have embarked on missions with ORBIS International — a non-profit organization working to prevent blindness and offering treatment in developing countries — and actor James Wen (溫昇豪), a goodwill ambassador for the organization.

Lu Da-wen (呂大文), one of the ORBIS doctors and director of the ophthalmology department at the Tri-Service General Hospital, said many of the patients he has been in touch with on these missions have lost their vision because of the lack of opportunity to receive treatment.

He said that it costs only about US$100 to carry out a glaucoma or cataract operation in developing countries and that the NT$1.2 million (US$40,400) raised by yesterday’s event could benefit around 4,000 children.

“There is a lot that can be done with US$100,” said Lu, who has been helping with eye treatment in India, Myanmar and the Philippines since 2004.

Clare Chao, a participant in the event, said she came because she felt the event was meaningful and because she thinks charity initiatives “need the united efforts of more people.”

The event was organized by the Standard Chartered Bank’s Taiwan branch ahead of a June 10 annual race up Taipei 101, which it sponsors.

It was part of the bank’s “Seeing is Believing” global fundraiser, held since 2003 with the aim of helping to eradicate avoidable blindness around the world.

Each of the participants, including 800 employees from the bank, donated NT$300 to support ORBIS. A total of NT$1.2 million was donated after the bank matched the contributions.