Ster-Kinekor helps to #OpenEyes

Giving the gift of sight is a life-changing gift…

STER-KINEKOR Vision Mission, together with other generous partners and donors, made it possible for 20-year-old Philani Colin Thwala to undergo a double corneal transplant and regain his sight.

Born at the Johannesburg General Hospital and raised in Palm Ridge, Thwala came from a very poor family, with his mother, Beatrice, taking care of her own six children as well as her nieces and nephews, supporting 11 children in all. Thwala battled with his schooling as his sight was deteriorating every year. He couldn’t go anywhere without someone, so he spent his time at home, living a very sheltered life.

Philani’s eyes started giving problems from the time he was around the age of five and his mom thought it was the dust in the township causing his eyes to always be bloodshot, sore and red.

His eyesight deteriorated from then, but they were not aware of the cause of the problem. Philani visited doctors, optometrists, pharmacists, eye clinics and similar but his eyes worsened. His family eventually heard that he needed a double corneal transplant to prevent him from going completely blind.

According to business director at Ogilvy Public Relations, Janet de Kretser, the operation was the only chance for Thwala to recover some vision in both eyes. Her employer, Linda, prayed and asked God to help them, and that is when she was moved to write about the desperate situation on a medical website to ask if there was anyone who could help Thwala.

An ophthalmologist, Dr Akiel Asvat, who practises at St John’s Eye Hospital in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, responded to her message, offering to do the surgery on a pro-bono basis, but advised Linda that they would need R18 000 for each cornea, which had to be imported from America, due to a shortage of such organs in South Africa.

Linda took it upon herself and her family to raise the money by asking anyone and everyone to help them raise the necessary funds. They managed to raise enough money for the first corneal transplant, which went ahead thanks to Dr Asvat. Ster-Kinekor and its CSI programme Vision Mission stepped in and, through its #OpenEyes campaign, has generously funded Philani’s second eye operation.

The objective of the campaign, #OpenEyes, is to call on all South Africans to suggest what movie they think Philani should watch as his first big-screen cinema experience.

South Africans are currently responding to this call by posting their suggestions using #OpenEyes on Ster-Kinekor’s social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter: @sterkinekor).

The movie that gets the most mentions will be screened in the evening on May 26. Philani and his friends and family will watch it in the luxurious Cine Prestige theatre at the recently refurbished Ster-Kinekor cinema complex at Eastgate Shopping Centre.

To thank South Africans for their participation in the #OpenEyes campaign, the selected film will also be screened at Ster-Kinekor cinemas around the country at a nominal fee that will be donated to Vision Mission to fund another corneal transplant for another needy South African.

Bradley Knowles, general manager: marketing at Ster-Kinekor said: “We are asking South Africans to come on board with us and suggest what movie they think Philani should watch with his new eyes, as his first big-screen cinema experience. Our promise to our customers is a ‘great moment at its greatest’ and we certainly think this is going to be one of Philani’s greatest moments.”

During the operation and recovery process, Ster-Kinekor Vision Mission has been following and documenting Philani’s incredible story and the impact that the restoration of sight will have on this young life. Through #OpenEyes, they will engage with the South African public to update them on his progress.

“The #OpenEyes campaign runs until 18 May and the public is asked to upload a short video clip or comment with their movie title recommendation, and why that is their choice, to Ster-Kinekor’s Facebook or Twitter, using #OpenEyes. We hope they will then share it on their own social media sites, and encourage their family, friends and followers to join in the conversation,” said Knowles.

Its cinema audiences have accumulated more than R500 000 per year over the past 10 years. With every donation of R2.50 (or more) added to the price of a movie ticket when booking online or at one of the cinemas’ self-service terminals, caring customers have contributed to 281 100 underprivileged children being screened for refractive sight errors, the provision of more than 80 000 optometric tests, and the fitting of 12 800 pairs of spectacles, to the value of R14 million, to many needy youngsters.

You can follow Philani’s story here:


For more information on Vision Mission, please visit: https://www.sterkinekor.com/#/ext/csi_vision

Follow: #OpenEyes @sterkinekor #VisionMission

Courtesy: Ogilvy Public Relations and Ster-Kinekor.

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