Imagine seeing the world around you as little more than a series of blurry colors. This scenario is what millions of children wake up to each day if their parents can’t afford the eyeglasses they need. The lack of vision impacts everything from their performance at school to their ability to form friendships.
Recently, CharityVision, a Utah-based charity, provided over 100 children with the gift of sight. Earlier in November 2019, the organization provided free vision screening for all Alpine and Provo City School District students. They then invited students in need to select frames for prescription lenses as part of the “Sight Buddies” program.
The Problems with Vision Care in America
Many components go into correcting vision. It isn’t as simple as going to a store and trying a pair that helps you see clearly. The process of finding your right prescription consists of many steps and isn’t a once-and-done thing — vision changes over time, so having access to vision care is crucial.
Your eyes are a vital organ, and you need good eyesight to do everything from drive to the store to read a menu. However, even given the way most people rely on their sight organs to navigate daily life, vision care is exempt from many benefits packages. Even Medicare doesn’t cover routine vision screenings, let alone the cost of prescription lenses, although some Part C plans do. Among working adults, relatively few receive vision benefits from their employers. Those who do may still often face prohibitive out-of-pocket costs.
As a result, many children struggle. Because youth often lack the communication skills to explain what’s wrong, adults can misinterpret their struggles to see as misbehavior. A child may grow unruly in class because they cannot see the board. Their teacher may discipline the child, and even discuss possibilities such as ADHD with the parents. They often overlook the simple physical cause of the disruption.
Many schools do have vision screening requirements, which vary by state. However, learning that there is a problem does little if the family lacks the money to fix it. This financial hardship can compound physical and mental health problems. Parents may grow depressed, feeling that they’ve failed their child. The youth may resent having to sit at the front of the classroom always and experience growing frustration with learning in general.
The problem often comes to a head during the teen years. Learning how to drive a car is a rite of passage for many teenagers. However, those that can’t meet the visual requirements in their state feel left behind as their peers all get wheels.
What Sight Buddies Aims to Do
CEO of CharityVision Doug Jackson explained that the Sight Buddies program aimed to assist children and teens whose parents cannot afford glasses. This year, the organization plans to screen approximately 1.5 million children in 26 countries. As a result, 200,000 young people will receive their first pair of glasses.
The transformation is incredible. For the first time, many of these students can see what their teacher wrote on the board. This improved vision spurs academic progress and empowers students to do things they previously could not. For example, some students may welcome the opportunity to participate in team sports. However, when you can’t see the ball, playing games such as baseball prove problematic.
CharityVision uses 100% of all donations to give people their sight back. They partner with doctors and hospitals around the globe to provide not only vision screenings but also to provide cataract surgery to those who cannot afford it. People interested in supporting the project can become monthly sponsors for $25. They’ll receive a free T-shirt, as well as regular updates on how their money goes to work to restore sight.
Giving Youth the Gift of Sight
With the help of charities like CharityVision and the Sight Buddies program, more youth can enjoy the gift of sight. Everyone deserves to see the beauty of the world, and perhaps most of all, young people who are taking their first steps in the world!