On World Optometry Day, Martin Aufmuth inventor and Chairman of OneDollarGlasses shares a patient story to highlight the importance of glasses in people’s lives.
“Finally, I can sew again” beams Suzanna Marciel and looks at me full of joy. Suzanna is 74 years old and lives with her 15 children, 54 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren in a small village on the Brazilian Amazon. Her joy is because her visual impairment kept her from pursuing her favorite activity – sewing.
OneDollarGlasses (ODG) is a charitable organisation, with the goal to set up a local supply of affordable, high-quality and locally-produced glasses on a sustainable basis. We have developed our own optical training course for training ODG-opticians. The local people produce these glasses manually, thereby empowering the producers and opticians to make a living. We currently have projects in eight countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
When our team in Brazil first met Suzanna, she looked tired. No wonder, as she had to travel three hours by bus and a further five hours by boat to visit us in the eye camp. Her family also had to save up money for the journey; 40 Real or 10 US Dollars.
During the eye test, Suzanna told us that there had never been an eye doctor in her village. In Brazil, this is not uncommon, as most of the rural areas and even the majority of the smaller cities don’t have eye doctors. Tens of millions of Brazilian people today don’t have affordable access to glasses. In the Amazon for example. (Manaus, the capital city of the state of Amazonas, excluded) there is only one ophthalmologist for 456,000 people (Source: Brazilian Ophthalmologic Census, 2014)
We gave Suzanna her first pair of glasses–her first in her 74 years–with a power of +4.00 diopters in both eyes. That same day about one hundred poor people got glasses as well. Suzanna was proud to finally be able to read again, but what she was looking forward to the most was using her sewing machine. Before her departure, we made her a promise: A team from OneDollarGlasses would visit her village soon.
A few weeks later, we were on our way on a speedboat with an eye doctor and a full set of equipment. We set up our station in a community hall, conducting eye tests for one day. We screened around 150 patients, the majority of whom were older people who were in dire need of reading glasses. At the end of the screening, we gave out 50 glasses and also referred people with cataract to an eye hospital.
At the end of our visit, Suzanna insisted on cooking for us and introduced us to her family. Some of her children and grandchildren are now also wearing glasses, as is her husband. And Suzanna? She keeps her OneDollarGlasses like a treasure. She proudly showed us her sewing machine and demonstrated how well she could pass the thread through the needle again – without any trouble!
During the course of my work, I have met many of Suzanna’s children and other adults like them whose lives were completely changed by a simple pair of glasses. Worldwide more than 700 million people need glasses but cannot afford it. On World Optometry Day let’s work together to help change this.