Vancouver restaurateur runs eye-care camps for seniors in India

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Kamal Mroke

Kamal Mroke, the proprietor of India Bistro, has been conducting his People’s Eye Charity camps in India for the better part of two decades. Mark van Manen/PNG

Local restaurateur Kamal Mroke has spent the better part of 20 years giving the gift of sight to those suffering in his home country.

Now Mroke is gearing up yet again for his annual trip to India, where he sets up about 25 three-day eye camps across northern Punjab every February as part of his People’s Eye Charity.

A team of local doctors is enlisted and each camp treats 75 to 150 patients. On the first day doctors examine patients and determine who needs medication and who needs surgery, the second day they perform surgery, and the last day is for check-ins and check-ups.

While the camps are open to all patients, Mroke said most are seniors in need of cataract surgery.

“There’s a lot of dust and a lot of farmers in India — they’re so poor they cannot even look after their own eyes,” said Mroke. “I give them tools so they can go back to their ordinary life — they can do whatever they want … (so) they can feed their own family, support themselves.”

Mroke prefers his unique People’s Eye Charity rather than an ordinary clothing or food drive.

“I can give you food, (but) you’ll be hungry again tomorrow,” he said. “Without eyes you’re nothing … you don’t know what’s in front of you.

“I cannot feed you everyday — but the eyes I can give you once and all your life it can stay with you.”

Each camp costs about $2,500, with most of the money raised by Mroke’s restaurant, India Bistro, located in Vancouver’s West End.

“Especially thanks to my customers who help me a lot — without them there’s nothing I can do,” he said.

And if the total amount needed isn’t reached, the rest comes out of Mroke’s pocket — but it’s the best way to spend his money, Mroke said.

“I work so hard for my money I want to see where my money goes,” he said.

And the response he gets in India makes it worth every penny.

“I was so touched — the feeling you get when you’re doing the work. It’s so good,” he said. “They start crying — (they) can see again.

“They think you’re the God for them — you give them life.”

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