Today, October 9th, is World Sight Day! So let’s see here…
I didn’t need glasses until sophomore year of high school. Unlike your cliché American teenaged girl, I was thrilled to acquire such an accessory. My four eyes added to the artsy-weird-girl image I tried so hard to project and they made me less appealing to the perverts on San Francisco’s public transportation system. Win win. In these early days, my prescription was so low the correction was really only noticeable when I read chemistry equations on the chalk board. Or for noticing that the complexions of my classmates were much more acne riddled than I had ever before realized.
Over a decade later, my eyes have gotten significantly worse. Without correction, the world around me resembles an oil painting, most details lost in hazy blurred edges, shapes, and colors. On the grand scheme, my eyes really aren’t that bad. Sometimes I’ll run errands in my neighborhood sans glasses or contacts. It’s not the best idea- if I was approached by a person whose expression was awash with aggression, I wouldn’t see that until he was in near striking distance. Now, the chance of that happening on a quick laundry run is pretty slim. Still, I can understand what the world would be like if I weren’t fortunate enough to have proper vision care.
I did not learn World Sight Day existed until last night. I attended a launch party for OneSight, an organization working to solve the global vision crisis. Were you aware that there’s a global vision crisis? I sure wasn’t until last night when Jason Singh, the executive director of OneSight, told me all about it. A day later, the statistics he shared are still boggling my mind. Over half a billion people in the world do not have any access to vision care. That’s 563 million people living in a scary blur, often significantly handicapped by something that is so easy to fix!
OneSight is an organization that has been active for 25 years during which they’ve helped over 8.5 million people get access to vision care. The event I attended was the launch of their The Way We See It campaign. How does OneSight see it? That the global vision crisis is one of the easiest and quickest health issues to fix. Already they’ve been successful in setting up eye care clinics in countries that never had them before and they’re even able to make these clinics profitable- creating jobs in countries with stricken economies.
“Sight can be the difference between surviving and thriving.” I am guilty of taking my vision for granted. So many of us do! Think about it, without eye care what would become difficult if not impossible? Could you be able read signs? Books? Could you safely drive a car? Work on a computer? Perform your job? Learn at school?
If you’re a kid who needs vision care and can’t get it how the heck are you supposed to learn at school? How many “stupid” or “slacker” kids would lose these labels if they could just see the chalk board? During Jason’s engaging presentation I learned this is actually a big problem in New York City! Not just in developing countries, but right in my back yard!
Ready for another mind-boggling statistic? 40% of the 1.1 million public school students in NYC are from families living below the poverty line. These families are more likely to lack resources, time, or understanding that vision care can be a necessity for their children. This fall OneSight is opening a permanent, self-sufficient clinic inside PS 188. It’s a pretty exciting undertaking and you can read more about the need in New York City here.
The thing that draws me into this campaign is that the results can be so immediate. There’s no research involved here, no “who knows how much time and money it’ll take before we can find a cure”. It’s simple: get glasses to those who need them, see how much their lives improve when they can see! Thanks for opening my eyes to this cause, World Sight Day!