Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vision for a Nation - CNN

Here is a more in depth article corresponding to Vision for a Nation segment as discussed Saturday evening on CNN.

In third world countries prescription eyewear is really considered a luxury.

An estimated 40% of world’s population needs glasses. Additionally, The World Health Organization has declared that 1 billion people need but lack eyeglasses.

One innovative UK non-profit is trying to change that. Vision for a Nation Foundation, a non profit, has goal is to provide adjustable lenses in areas where eye care services are incredibly limited. They are tackling the global issue one nation at a time starting with Rwanda.

While in the US there is one optometrist to 4,500 people, in the entire country of Rwanda (10.7 million people) there are only 12 optometrists - total. And an estimated 1.2 million require eyeglasses.

Adjustable Glasses

The company has created continuously adjustable glasses. They are developed by American physicist Luis Alvarez and while they are constantly being tweaked and refined but the current state of the product is working and successful. Basically each side of the glasses is made of two lenses that slide against each other (via tiny knobs on each side) to find the right prescription. Since the glasses can also be continuously adjusted it allows for family members to share one pair.


The Vision for a Nation Foundation Partnered with Rwanda’s Government (Ministry of Health) which was key. While there are only 200 doctors and 5 hospitals in all of Rwanda there are 417 health care centers and 60k community workers that work closely with villagers. With proper training they are able to distribute the glasses to individuals in need. It really takes the backing of the Rwandan health system to remain organized and give this company the right mechanism to reach the right individuals.


In much of the developing world glasses cost 1 -2 months earnings making a pair not possible to purchase. While the Rwanda the government believes that no goods or services should be given free of charge so they charge $1 for a pair of glasses the destitute do receive them for free. Vision For a Nation donates all that money back to the health centers which goes into training the nurses and health care workers.

The average income is $510. But this is a country that is heavy into bartering – very different than the US.


The stories of impact are already so powerful. One story focused on a man who is a tailor who started his craft at the age of 15. He has regular clients he He meets and creates clothing for. He particularly had trouble not being able to see threading the needle. He relied on relatives and strangers passing by to assist. If there wasn’t someone around he couldn’t thread and in turn his work slowed down. With 5 kids and 8 grandchildren work slowed. He exclaimed “I can see clearly!” One can imagine what a dramatic difference this makes even for just one person.

As noted Vision for a Nation is constantly changing the material and refining the process but they have already come such a long way.

Vision for a Nation began its work through funding from philanthropist James Chen who has a Foundation based in Hong Kong.

People can donate at


  1. Yeah, forget about the internet... I always wondered how people survived before corrective eyewear was invented... and Tylenol for that matter!



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