Thakore co-recipients named

September 23, 2004, vol. 31, no. 2
By Carol Thorbes

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A retired teacher and nurse, who has dedicated much of her life to helping the blind see in developing countries, is a co-recipient of this year's Thakore visiting scholar award.

Marilyn Gullison is a member of four generations of a Canadian-Indian family that is passionate about helping the disadvantaged in India.

Gullison was born and raised in India. Like her Nova Scotia grandparents, who started a school for boys on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in 1896, Gullison taught school in India. Like her father Ben, Gullison eventually followed her heart into medicine.

Her father's work inspired her to become a nurse. He founded Arogyavaram, a general hospital in rural south India which later specialized in the delivery of eye care.

Gullison's dedication to helping Canadian donors fundraise for Operation Eyesight Universal, Thakore co-recipient, helped her earn this year's Thakore award.

A non-profit group started by Calgary donors, Operation Eyesight initially raised funds for Arogyavaram hospital and now supports eye treatment and surgery in several developing nations.

Since its inception 41 years ago, the organization has helped 2 million people globally gain their sight.

Gullison sees her contribution to her father's vision of illuminating the world of the sightless as not only a gift to the disadvantaged in developing countries, but to her.

“It has been a wonderful gift to be a bit of a link between our countries (Canada and India) - to love and encourage people who choose through their money or their skills to impact the lives of the destitute blind villagers.”

Gullison opened the Vancouver office of Operation Eyesight in 1991 and is its lifetime ambassador and volunteer.

Gullison and Operation Eyesight Universal will receive the Thakore award on Oct. 2 during Gandhi Jayanti, an annual ceremony honouring the birth and philosophy of the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi.

The ceremony begins at 6:45 p.m. at the Ghandi bust in peace square in the science complex at the Burnaby campus. An award presentation and cultural program starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Burnaby campus' Images theatre. The program will feature retired Alberta engineer Shall Sinha doing a dramatic performance as Gandhi.

Simon Fraser University's institute for the humanities, the Thakore foundation and the India Club of Vancouver sponsor the award.

The late Natverlal Thakore, a former member of SFU's education faculty, created the award named after him to honour people who show qualities valued by Gandhi. They include creativity, commitment, and a concern for truth, justice and non-violence.

Gullison, a North Vancouver resident, is also president of Helping Underprivileged Girls and Guys Study (HUGGS) Canada, a non-profit organization, founded by her daughter Lisa. The group helps young people get a higher education in rural India, where schooling ends at Grade 10.

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