Ster-Kinekor’s #OpenEyes campaign funds double corneal transplant


Ster-Kinekor and its flagship CSI programme, Vision Mission, have for the past ten years been responsible for giving the gift of clear sight to thousands of underprivileged school children across the country, through screenings, eye tests and the donation of thousands of pairs of spectacles. During this time, the CSI project also assisted with two previous corneal transplants. Through #OpenEyes, it has now played a significant role in the double corneal transplant operation on 20-year-old Philani Twala.

The #OpenEyes campaign was launched in May 2016 to highlight and raise awareness for Vision Mission’s new focus – the plight of thousands of needy South Africans who require a corneal transplant, but who do not have the financial means. It is hoped that Twala’s uplifting and inspiring story, and the life-changing gift of sight that he has been given, is the first of many such stories that Ster-Kinekor will tell in the future.

“Our promise to our customers is a “great moment at its greatest’. From his reaction to the movie, this has certainly proved true for Twala, and we look forward to sharing many more great moments with him.

#OpenEyes used multiple advertising and social media platforms to reach out to all South Africans to get involved and lend their voices to the campaign, by suggesting what movie Twala should watch as his first great moment with Ster-Kinekor.

The question: if you were given the gift of sight, what is the first movie you would choose to watch on the big screen?

South Africa voted, and at the end of the inaugural #OpenEyes campaign, the most popular movie choice for Twala, from Katlehong on the East Rand, to watch as his first big-screen cinema experience was Avatar. Having been blind for the past ten years, following a degenerative eye disease, Twala recently underwent a double corneal transplant to restore his sight.

On Thursday evening, 26 May 2016, Twalal his first film at Ster-Kinekor Eastgate with his family and friends, and the partners involved in #OpenEyes. Not only did Twala see his first film on the big screen, he got to see himself in the campaigns commercial. Twala said, “Avatar was amazing. I felt like I was inside the movie, acting in the movie too.’

“The response from the public was simply amazing,’ said Bradley Knowles, general manager, marketing of Ster-Kinekor. “Twala’s story touched hearts all around the country.’
Affording Twala the opportunity to undergo this life-changing operation was made possible through the generosity, kindness and expertise of various people and organisations, including Ster-Kinekor customers who make a conscious decision to donate to Vision Mission each time they book a movie ticket online or at one of the self-service terminals in the cinema foyers.

“It is impossible to thank the countless people who have given of their time and expertise to ensure the success of this operation. However, special thanks must go to Dr Akiel Asvat, the opthalmologist who performed Philani’s second corneal transplant on a pro bono basis,’ commented Knowles.

“Our plea to all our cinema goers is to opt in during the booking process, to make a contribution to the Ster-Kinekor Vision Mission initiative. Giving someone the precious gift of sight – something most of us take for granted, but a life-changing event for someone like Philani – is as simple as a donation from just R2.50,’ concluded Knowles.

You can follow Twala’s story here, video one and video two.

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Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.


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