After regularly serving patients in their day-to-day professions, ECPs often choose to then go above and beyond by helping others, both domestically and throughout the world.
By definition, eyecare professionals serve those in need, so it’s no surprise that outside the scope of their daily “job” they choose to donate their own time and money to people without access to eyecare and a simple pair of glasses. As a result, numerous nonprofit organizations have been established and have evolved over the years to seek out those with vision impairment and to provide them with correction. Here are some of those groups and the people who contribute toward a vision of helping the world see clearly.
ABOUT: With a mission to bring access to vision care and glasses to the one in seven people who need glasses but have no way to get them and envisioning a world where lack of access to vision care is no longer a barrier to human achievement, global nonprofit OneSight is dedicated to bringing access to an eye exam and glasses to the 1.1 billion people who have no way to get them. Believing that one’s location and circumstances should not stand in the way of one’s potential, OneSight provides permanent access to vision care and glasses while pioneering new ways to deliver them to the most remote communities. OneSight’s goal is to create a world where lack of access to vision care is no longer a barrier to human achievement and every donation is one step closer to making that world a reality. Since 1988, OneSight Vision Clinics have served over 10 million people in 49 countries and 49 states. With the help of dedicated partners, there are 95 self-sustaining vision centers operating today, providing ongoing access to vision care to over 15 million people.
OneSight is open to any employee of Luxottica. I have been involved for almost 12 years. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences. We help children here in the U.S., and we help adults and children around the world. We often don’t realize how poor vision can affect children and their ability to learn. I saw in Guatemala a seamstress, sole supporter of her family. She could no longer support her family because she could no longer see up close, which happens to all of us. All she needed was an inexpensive pair of reading glasses! I absolutely receive more than I give. — Pamela Brown, Managing OD, LensCrafters, Novi, MI
INITIATIVES: OneSight is committed to providing access to vision care and glasses to the over 200,000 displaced people living along the Thai-Burma border by 2020 by building capacity and empowering those in the local community to provide self-sustaining care as well as conducting charitable clinics for people who can’t afford a pair of glasses. Just this past month, the OneSight team and volunteers traveled to Thailand to provide free vision care to over 2,000 migrants, refugees and children along the Thai-Burma border with 1,752 patients receiving glasses.
Also this year, OneSight and The Fresh Air Fund celebrated their 15th year giving children from New York City’s low-income communities the chance to experience the outdoors in Fishkill, NY, and see it more clearly. Throughout July and August, OneSight served over 2,500 kids, ensuring every camper that needed a pair of glasses received one made and fitted on-site.
In addition to providing access through long-term Community Vision Centers and short-term one- to two-week Vision Care Clinics, OneSight also provides permanent year-round access to vision care and glasses for students and their families led by local partners and the school systems through School-Based Vision Centers. To date, OneSight has opened 19 School-Based Vision Centers across the U.S., bringing access to over one million students and their families.
ESSILOR VISION FOUNDATION
ABOUT: Essilor Vision Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity in Dallas committed to eliminating poor vision and its lifelong consequences, striving to give children a brighter future by helping them see the world more clearly. One in four children in the U.S. has a vision problem that’s significant enough to affect their ability to learn. Vision issues not only impact the success of children in school; they also affect their ability to function in life. Unlike hunger or tooth decay, vision is an invisible problem—children are often unable to self-identify that their vision is impaired. To them, blurred vision is normal. Vision impairment is one of the most prevalent disabling conditions among children in the U.S.; 80% of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured. Nearly 25% of parents report that they do not have the financial resources to get comprehensive eye exams for their children. By partnering with schools, eyecare professionals, nonprofit charities and corporations, Essilor Vision Foundation is able to provide vision exams and eyeglasses to children in need.
I’ve been involved with the EVF for several years now. I became involved after hearing about their assistance to other charitable vision entities: VOSH, RAM and several local outreaches. We began working with EVF a few years ago to provide eyeglasses to needy children in several nearby school districts. We had found out that 80% of children who fail school vision screenings never have their eyes checked. We partnered with EVF to provide free glasses to these students. The most rewarding part of all this is seeing the children’s eyes light up as we dispense their glasses and they see clearly for the first time in their lives. It’s very heartwarming. With this program and others that I’ve worked on with EVF, they have always been incredibly generous in their donations. They are literally impacting thousands of lives each year. — John Larcabal, OD, Norwalk Family Optometry and Brea Optometry
INITIATIVES: Earlier this year, Essilor Vision Foundation launched Changing Life Through Lenses. This program supports eye doctors and nonprofits providing philanthropic vision services across the U.S. to patients who are at or below the poverty level and do not have insurance for vision services and glasses they receive through the doctor or organization providing the services. Changing Life Through Lenses empowers philanthropic eye doctors and non-profits to help those in need with a complete pair of glasses, including no-cost lenses, lab services and frames. It also enables eye doctors and practices to give back in their own communities. Whether they are currently engaged in charitable services or looking to get involved for the first time, Changing Life Through Lenses gives providers the flexibility to engage however they choose while providing guides and resources to help them start or expand their charitable services.
ABOUT: 20/20 Quest, a charitable foundation, certified 501(c)(3), sponsored by National Vision, was chartered for the purpose of providing screenings, eye exams, eyeglasses and refractive error solutions to the optically underserved in both the U.S. and the developing world. 20/20 Quest has partnered with organizations and individuals who have impacted the lives of millions of people both domestically and around the world. The Frames for the World program within 20/20 Quest has helped more than 320,000 individuals receive glasses through October 2018—made possible through frame and lens donations from manufacturers, optical chains and individuals. Frame company De Rigo REM is particularly proud of its recent donation of 10,000 frames. Striving to align its actions with the vision of the company, “We believe everyone deserves to see their best to live their best,” National Vision focuses its philanthropy efforts in the optical sector, where it feels it can make the greatest difference.
Our Sunday school class of 100+ fully provides care to two orphanages, one in Kenya and one in Uganda. While many things are done to help these children, and their lives have been enormously enhanced by clean water, dormitories, real kitchens, etc., we also provide a strong outreach to the surrounding communities. One of our major ministries is to help provide reading glasses to the adults. Having done this in the past, I can tell you with authority that enhancing their near vision is a near miracle to them. I vividly remember one lady whose job was to meticulously separate debris from the dried corn. She struggled to do a halfway job, but once we put the pair of +2.50 on her, she busted into this huge smile that could have been seen a mile away! Many of these people truly desire to read their Bibles, and being able to do such with much enhanced vision has brought tears of joy to their eyes, and ours too. National Vision has made it possible for us to provide these enhanced vision services to these people who would otherwise struggle or simply would not be able to do any meaningful near tasks at all. Their generous support has helped us improve the lives of hundreds of people over the years, and we are so very grateful for their help. — Randall Thomas, OD, MPH, Concord, NC
INITIATIVES: In addition to its long-standing program of supplying donated new eyeglass frames to various philanthropic organizations, in 2018, 20/20 Quest began initial testing of a new program with the goal of manufacturing O.U. spherical minus eyeglasses for distribution to the optically underserved in the developing world. After supplying plus power readers in this format for many years, this new program will potentially provide large numbers of minus glasses to those in need of minus correction in 2019 by partnering with various global missions led by optometrists and laypeople to test and refine supply and delivery methods.
VOSH: VOLUNTEER OPTOMETRIC SERVICES TO HUMANITY
ABOUT: Established in 1971, VOSH, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, is the largest nonprofit optometric humanitarian association serving developing areas of the world with its 84 chapters globally. VOSH provides quality eyecare and glasses without cost through short term clinics and sustainability initiatives. The VOSH mission is to provide the gift of vision and quality eye health to people worldwide. VOSH facilitates the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care with a goal of increasing its global impact whenever possible by supporting sustainable eye clinics, optometry schools and optometric educators in areas lacking sufficient eyecare.
On a VOSH campaign, the average patient has entering acuity typically 20/60 or worse. They also have no other access to affordable eyeglasses. To impact 100 patients or more each day is immensely rewarding. Nothing pays as well as volunteering my time. My first VOSH campaign was to Venezuela 30 years ago. It was a fantastically rewarding experience to serve desperately poor patients willing to wait up to 20 hours for an eye exam and eyeglasses. Since then I’ve led U.S. optometry students on about 60 week-long campaigns to Latin America. Student VOSH chapters have also been established at every U.S. optometry school as well as 28 foreign schools. Our goal is to offer this experience to every optometry student in hopes they stay involved in their state VOSH chapter after graduation. Beyond the approximately 100 campaigns each year, VOSH International also partners with the Brien Holden Vision Institute to develop the first optometry colleges in the world’s poorest countries where few optometrists practice. Since 2015, VOSH recruited U.S. and Canadian optometrists to teach optometry at four-year colleges in Nicaragua, Haiti, Vietnam, Kenya and Uganda under the VOSH Corp. VOSH International also accepts donations of used clinical instruments to develop clinics on campuses of these optometry schools where their students can provide nonprofit optometric care while improving clinical skills. — Greg Pearl, OD, Chair, VOSH Corps Committee; President, VOSH California; Past President, VOSH International
INITIATIVES: Partners in establishing new schools and programs of optometry in Haiti and Nicaragua and through VOSH Corps program, recruiting North American trained optometrists to train future educators and optometrists in fledgling and new schools and clinics including most recently Nicaragua, Malawi, Uganda and Vietnam. A Technology Transfer Program also supports sustainability by sending refurbished equipment around the world to clinics and schools.
VSP GLOBAL EYES OF HOPE
ABOUT: VSP Global Eyes of Hope supports local communities around the globe through initiatives that provide access to eyecare, eyewear and disaster relief to places where they’re needed most. Together with VSP network doctors, to date, VSP Global has provided access to no-cost eyecare and eyewear for more than two million people in need and has committed to help another million by 2020.
I participate in a much underserved area and did a week’s worth of clinics this summer and a week’s worth last summer. Semi-retired now, I have time to give back more than in the past. It’s very eye opening to see how many underserved people there are in my backyard in the north coast of California, partly due to their medical coverage, and that’s not going to change. It’s very rewarding seeing kids, for example, who can’t see well enough to read but can’t get glasses because of the system. Not only can we help provide them with eye exams, but we can also give them glasses, sometimes the same day. — David Jones, OD, Empire Optometry, Santa Rosa, CA
INITIATIVES: To achieve the goal of helping another million by 2020, the organization partners with elected officials, as VSP Global Eyes of Hope did recently with California Assemblymember Jim Wood. In August, Assemblymember Wood partnered with VSP Global Eyes of Hope and VSP network doctors for the second year in a row, for a week-long outreach event to provide access to eye exams and glasses to residents in California’s 2nd Assembly District. VSP network doctors visited Eureka, Fort Bragg, Ukiah and Santa Rosa to provide eye exams through the VSP Global Eyes of Hope mobile eyecare clinic. David Jones, OD, was among those volunteer doctors dedicating several days each year to giving back to his community. Individuals seen had been without access to eyecare and glasses for many years, making it difficult to drive, take a class or work. For residents in the Mendocino area, a comprehensive eye exam that can check for signs of many diseases, including diabetes, is especially relevant as a 2016 University of California Los Angeles study found that an estimated 48% of adults in Mendocino County are prediabetic. As a result of this partnership more than 1,400 people in need received access to a VSP network doctor for eyecare and eyewear (if prescribed). VSP also provided gift certificates for those affected by wildfires occurring in nearby communities.
VSP Global Eyes of Hope vspglobal.com/cms/vspglobal-outreach/home.html
ABOUT: Prevent Blindness brings Americans to eyecare, working to build awareness, create access to eyecare and support patients by providing information, resources and technical assistance; influencing public policy; and helping to shape public health systems of care.
It’s nice to be able to bring experts from all types of disciplines to sit at the table and identify children and what their needs are, to bring together the literature and make recommendations based on the evidence to educate parents and families. I feel like a member of the family when I participate. — Sandra Block, OD, Illinois College of Optometry
INITIATIVES: In 2009, Prevent Blindness established the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH), with partial support from the Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and advised by child health and vision care leaders, including ophthalmologists, optometrists, vision and eye health researchers, pediatricians, public health strategists, family representatives and more. The mission of the NCCVEH is to develop a coordinated public health infrastructure to promote and ensure a comprehensive, multi-tiered continuum of vision care for young children.
Efforts in 2019 will include: Convening a community of practice peer-to-peer mentoring resource for at least five state-level teams; partnering with national organizations to create a public health awareness campaign to promote healthy vision for children in African American and Hispanic populations; creating a new family engagement toolkit that can be used by early educators to improve parent/caregiver follow-up to eyecare and knowledge levels about the importance of healthy vision; and providing professional education via conference presentations/webinars about systems improvement for vision health in children.
ABOUT: With a mission to empower lives by restoring vision and a vision of a world where everyone who needs glasses has them, RestoringVision is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to distributing new glasses to charitable organizations serving people in impoverished communities around the world. Since 2003, RestoringVision has partnered with more than 1,400 organizations and helped over 12 million people in need.
The partnership with RestoringVision is really just an extension of what we do. Our clients are the catalyst that allows us to donate the glasses on their behalf. Giving the gift of sight is such a generous, meaningful thing to do! By scheduling an eye exam for themselves, our members can change the lives of those in need. — Myles Lewis, CEO, General Vision Services
INITIATIVES: Over 500 million people live with near vision impairment in developing countries and lack access to available, affordable reading glasses. This is one of the biggest global health problems with one of the easiest and most cost-effective solutions—a simple pair of glasses. RestoringVision is committed to solving this global health problem and getting as many glasses onto people’s faces as possible. This is why the organization has set a goal to help 20 million people see clearly by the end of 2020.
EYE CARE 4 KIDS
ABOUT: Eye Care 4 Kids is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established for the exclusive purpose of promoting good vision and literacy. A board-certified optician, Joseph Carbone started Eye Care 4 Kids with his wife, Jan Carbone, and Dee W. Hadley, to provide vision screening, eye exams and eyeglasses for deserving youth whose parents don’t have the means to pay. Since 2001, Eye Care 4 Kids has been enriching lives through the motto, “Helping children see their future one vision at a time.” Eye Care 4 Kids serves over 35,000 patients every year at eight clinics in Utah, Nevada, New Jersey and Arizona. Since 2003, “SEE-MORE” Mobile Vision Clinics have served thousands of children in impoverished neighborhoods and rural areas as well as Native American reservations in the Four Corners region (adjoining borders of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico). School-based clinics and a mobile in Las Vegas opened in 2012 and are booked five days a week throughout the school year. A free clinic at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark that opened in 2015 became the first vision care site of its kind in America, and an Eye Care 4 Kids mobile is now traveling to schools and Boys & Girls Clubs in greater Phoenix. International humanitarian aid has involved trips to Laos in 2013, Rwanda in 2016 and Peru, Guatemala and Kenya in 2018. Cumulatively, Eye Care 4 Kids has administered humanitarian relief to nearly 250,000 visually impaired, low-income children and underserved families, at home and abroad. In October 2018, Eye Care 4 Kids launched a new partnership with the Rutgers University School of Medicine to provide health screenings that target markers for chronic diseases that contribute to vision loss such as diabetes or glaucoma.
INITIATIVES: In 2019, “Kids World Vision” remote eye screening in partnership with the national Communities in Schools organization will serve children anywhere in America. A new partnership with Eyes on Learning, a statewide program for vision screenings, is paving the way to open a new school-based clinic in Phoenix. Eye Care 4 Kids is expanding its presence in Southern Utah through a special collaboration with the Washington County School District and local provider, Family Care Clinic. “SEE-MORE” will regularly visit nearly 20 Title One schools and community centers around the region as well as Native American reservations in San Juan County.
NEW EYES FOR THE NEEDY
ABOUT: New Eyes provides new prescription eyeglasses to financially struggling children and adults in the U.S. and distributes used glasses throughout the developing world through mission partners. Its goal is to spread clear vision throughout the U.S. and the world so that people in need can build more productive, independent and successful lives. New Eyes was founded in 1932 by New Jersey resident Julia Lawrence Terry who was a volunteer for the American Red Cross in downtown Manhattan. She noticed that many of the Red Cross applicants could not see to read their applications, so she asked her neighbors for their unused spectacles and lent them to applicants to complete their forms. Soon after, she realized that the frames were made from gold and silver and took them to a smelter in Newark, NJ. She used the proceeds to buy new glasses for the Red Cross applicants. Terry then started collecting used glasses from all over the country. Beginning in the late 1960s, New Eyes was receiving plastic-framed glasses, fewer gold and silver frames, and began its overseas program.
I became involved with New Eyes through Costco. We investigated a charity to donate eyewear. Costco donates over 250,000 eyeglasses a year to the overseas program. It has been amazing, helping people see, watching the growth of New Eyes with the addition of board members, growing donations and seeing how generous people are. — Denise Mogil, U.S. Optical Director of Professional Services, Costco Wholesale
INITIATIVES: New Eyes continues to pursue its initial mission of providing new eyeglasses to U.S. residents. The organization has just launched its “Double Your Donation” campaign thanks to a $100,000 matching gift from an anonymous donor who strongly believes in the mission. All proceeds will go to the new prescription eyeglasses program for U.S. residents in need.
FIGHT FOR SIGHT
ABOUT: Fight for Sight’s mission is to support and encourage eye and vision research by funding promising scientists early in their careers. Fulfilling this mission since 1946, Fight for Sight has provided over $21 million in grants to date to more than 3,000 students, scientists and ophthalmologists, including funding for 20 new eye and vision scientists during 2018.
INITIATIVES: Fight for Sight’s 2019 Post-Doctoral Award, Grant-in-Aid and Summer Student Fellowship applications are being accepted for review. Grant recipients will be announced in the spring. Fight for Sight holds an annual Lights-On Gala fundraiser. The 2018 event featured emcee Nancy Kerrigan, two-time Olympic medalist, philanthropist and 2017 Lights-On honoree.
OPTOMETRY GIVING SIGHT
ABOUT: Optometry Giving Sight is a global fundraising initiative that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error—simply the need for an eye exam and a pair of glasses. There are 1.22 billion people in the world who are unnecessarily blind or vision impaired simply because they don’t have access to an eye examination and appropriate glasses. This includes tens of millions of children with uncorrected myopia. Optometry Giving Sight funds the solution by supporting programs that train local eyecare professionals, establish optometry schools and vision centers for stability, and deliver eyecare and low-cost glasses. The Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation is the implementing partner of global eyecare programs supported by Optometry Giving Sight.
INITIATIVES: Since 2007, Optometry Giving Sight has distributed funding to more than 117 projects in 39 countries. Currently there are 47 projects being funded in 24 countries. The World Sight Day Challenge is Optometry Giving Sight’s largest fundraiser of the year. It is a global call to action that raises funds to meet the mission of bringing effective and sustainable eye health initiatives to people in developing countries around the world. A major international fundraising campaign, the World Sight Day Challenge is coordinated by Optometry Giving Sight as a way to bring the global optometric community together and help end avoidable blindness and vision impairment. World Sight Day annually falls on the second Thursday of October. The Challenge runs throughout October and November. All members of the optical industry are invited to participate, especially doctors/practices, optical industry companies and schools of optometry by making a donation or picking a fundraising activity.
ABOUT: In an effort to truly change how the world sees, U.S.-based nonprofit Orbis is introducing new technology and creative solutions to its decades-long work in the prevention and treatment of blindness. The creators of the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft often imagine what might happen when losing eyesight in some of the most under-resourced regions in the world and where one would turn for help given that there have been few quality eye doctors, hospitals or clinics. This is the reality facing 253 million people around the world today, yet shockingly, 75% of all visual impairment from conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and more can be prevented or treated by cost-effective means. That means that millions of adults and children would be able to see today if they had received a 15-minute surgery or a simple pair of glasses, the kind of care that many take for granted. Working in collaboration with local partners in the form of hospitals, universities and government agencies, Orbis aims to showcase the great need for technological advancement, continued research and creativity in giving people a fair chance at eyesight and at a full life.
INITIATIVES: In Ethiopia in October 2018 Orbis operated a three-week Flying Eye Hospital training project to mark the anniversary of its opening of an office in Addis Ababa in 1998.
OPTOMETRY CARES—THE AOA FOUNDATION
ABOUT: Raising awareness about eye health, increasing access to vision care and providing support to doctors of optometry and students in need is the vision of Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation. The organization works to ensure all Americans can access the gift of sight but also supports initiatives that uphold the profession. Donations go toward relief to those in need following natural disasters, vision care to infants and children, scholarships for optometry students and preserving optometry’s history.
I was attracted to Optometry Cares because it represented the profession as the official charity foundation of the AOA. I was inspired by its work with young children (InfantSEE and Healthy Eyes Healthy Children), the disadvantaged (Vision USA) and disaster relief. We have had past AOA presidents, past presidents of major eyecare companies and former Hall of Fame inductees. Seeing personal friends be inducted into the Optometry Hall of Fame, seeing disaster relief being administered to colleagues and seeing my home state association being recognized as the number one state affiliate contributor to Optometry Cares are all great highlights. — Allan Barker, OD, Eyecare Partners, LLC, Rocky Mount, NC
INITIATIVES: Because natural disasters keep optometrists from helping patients, the AOA created Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief to provide immediate financial relief to optometrists. Since 2005, grants totaling $949,750 have been given. The InfantSee public health program is designed to ensure that eye and vision care become an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, AOA optometrists provide a no-cost comprehensive eye and vision assessment for infants within the first year of life regardless of a family’s income or access to insurance coverage.