Optometry Giving Sight is working hard to raise funds to support sustainable eye care programs that give hope and transform the lives of millions of people around the world. It is the only global fundraising organisation that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error, which, at its heart, is the core business of optometry.
The charity is calling on the optical profession and industry to join in the fifth annual World Sight Day Challenge (WSDC) during October to raise funds that will help more people like Donglian.
Middle school student Donglian had never had her eyes checked before a local team of eye care professionals came to her school in a mountainous rural province of China. Although she sometimes had blurred vision, she hadn’t told her teacher. But a classmate, who’d noticed Donglian having difficulty seeing, did.
Even though she’s only young, Donglian has not had an easy life – her mother passed away when she was just a year old and her father has some mental health problems. Sometimes he is unable to take care of himself. While she used to live in the school dormitory, Donglian moved home to take care of him and do her bit on the family’s three hectares of land. She works from 7am to 11am every morning before walking for two hours to school.
Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of vision impairment in children aged five to 15 years
Although a bright student, Donglian’s teacher feels she would have achieved more had the school had known about her poor vision earlier.
“The blackboard is what we use for teaching. If she cannot see the blackboard clearly, she can listen to the teachers in the class only. I believe her study would have been much better, and I believe her study will be better in the future if her vision is improved now,” she said.
Following a visit from the eye care team, Donglian can now concentrate on her studies and try to make up for lost time. Despite her difficult personal circumstances, she has the opportunity to fulfill her potential.
Local Eye Care Centres Established
Donglian is one of over 4,000 school children in a rural province of China to benefit from a recent Refraction Training and School Screening project funded by Optometry Giving Sight. The success of this project has inspired newly trained nurses and ophthalmologists to establish Local Optometry Care Centres so they can provide ongoing services to other schools in the region.
They also hope to establish a Vision Centre in a local hospital to provide affordable and accessible vision care for people of the region. Many families and schools are still unaware of how important it is for their children to wear appropriate glasses, especially in rural China. Among those with optical correction, nearly 50 per cent of children wear inaccurate glasses.
Global Myopia Increasing
Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of vision impairment in children aged five to 15 years. The prevalence of myopia is increasing dramatically among children, particularly in urban areas of South-East Asia, resulting in lost education and employment opportunities, lower productivity and impaired quality of life.
While Optometry Giving Sight is currently funding 18 projects in 16 countries an estimated 670 million people remain who are blind or vision impaired simply because they cannot obtain the glasses they need – almost 30 times the population of Australia.
Help Change a Life
Last year, 330 practices around Australia signed up for the World Sight Day Challenge, raising a total of AUD$160,000. The top WSDC fundraiser in 2010 was Hansens Eyecare Plus in Orange, New South Wales – Optometrist Nick Hansen and his staff are strong supporters of the campaign.
“Although it’s encouraging, the number of practices around Australia that joined the Challenge in 2010 is still just a small percentage of the total,” he said. “Considering that uncorrected refractive error is our core business we need to step up and support the profession’s charity
Optometry Giving Sight National Committee Chair Dr. Bob Lees has seen the impact that WSDC donations can have on the lives of people who are needlessly blind or vision impaired.
“The provision of quality eye care is among the most cost effective of all health interventions… I hope that each person within our profession will take the Challenge and make a donation to Optometry Giving Sight on or before World Sight Day,” he said.
85 per cent of all donations go towards funding eye care projects and a contribution of as little as AUD$5 can provide an eye exam and glasses to one person in a developing country.
To be a part of the World Sight Day Challenge, register online at www.givingsight.org, or contact Optometry Giving Sight on (AUS) 1300 88 10 73, or at email@example.com. Request a free practice kit that contains everything you need to promote your involvement to patients, including eye-catching new posters and a donation box. Optometry Giving Sight can also provide assistance with placing an article in local papers.
Tina Wall is acting Communications Manager at Optometry Giving Sight while Jo Humphries is on maternity leave. Tina has over 15 years communications experience across Europe, Asia and Australia focusing mainly on disease awareness and education for health professionals on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.
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