What it's like to bring eye care to The Gambia...and the world
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What it's like to bring eye care to The Gambia...and the world
Pete Sarpong (left) with local OneSight vision center staff in The Gambia.


A World Sight Day spotlight: OneSight is establishing long-term eye care access for millions

 

 

By Peter Sarpong, EyeMed senior sales executive, guest blogger

 

 

Over the last few years, every person in The Gambia, a small country in West Africa, gained access to quality vision care. Yes, every person – more than 2 million people! I’m grateful and proud to say that EyeMed has been part of it all, and it’s given me a whole new perspective on access to vision care. As we celebrate World Sight Day October 12, I’m eager to share my Gambia vision center experience with the employers and benefit advisors I work with every day in my role as an EyeMed senior sales executive.

 

 

EyeMed’s work with OneSight was a major reason I decided to accept this position. I grew up around poverty in Ghana, also in West Africa, and have always been heavily involved in a number of globally focused non-profits. I’ve witnessed the obstacles many people confront in getting vision care.

 

 

OneSight, a global organization with a mission to help the world see, has opened 7 permanent vision centers in the last few years in The Gambia, a similarly rural country. Thanks to these centers, everyone in The Gambia now has more access to top quality vision care at an affordable price.

 

 

Addressing the local challenges of eye care access

 

 

EyeMed employees have been actively supporting OneSight in The Gambia from the beginning. As we help people everywhere see life to the fullest, it’s important to us to help solve the world vision crisis (1 in 7 around the globe don’t have access to vision care).[1]

 

 

EyeMed supports and encourages us, as employees, to volunteer time, leadership and expertise to OneSight--both at home and abroad. Every year, over 100 volunteers spend 1,000s of hours creating sustainable vision centers and training local people to provide vision care, staffing clinics, pre-manufacturing eyewear, performing vision pre-tests and helping local residents see what they’ve been missing.

 

 

In rural areas – where villagers may see 6 cars a month and face an hour walk to town – eye care access and awareness are slim. Power outages and old equipment are commonplace. And finding affordable vision care options can be close to impossible; I now understand why anything costing above 1,000 Dalasi (Gambian currency) would get the response “but that’s a bag of rice.”

 

 

In August, I visited some vision centers in The Gambia to get a better sense of impact and understanding of the OneSight operations there. It was my second time in The Gambia, and I came away more inspired than ever. Just 4 years ago, 1 optometrist served the entire country. Now, thanks to centers established by OneSight with help from partners like EyeMed, there are 7 permanent vision centers and a local eyewear manufacturing center in The Gambia (and more being built in other underserved countries). OneSight clinic teams in The Gambia have already seen 120,000 patients, provided 20,000 vision corrections and supplied 13,000 pairs of eyewear.

 

 

OneSight has a smart solution because it’s durable

 


These are permanent centers that now form a sustainable vision care system in The Gambia. Local teams train local staff and they independently operate the centers to serve their neighbors. They've created 84 area jobs in the process. Thanks to OneSight support, the centers are well-organized and have good equipment – though they sometimes have to operate under the shadow of occasional power outages.

 

 

Still, The Gambia is just 1 country, 1 part of a sustainable solution to the global vision care crisis. Altogether, here’s what OneSight has accomplished around the world since 1988:

 


• 9 million people in 46 countries have been helped to see clearly
• 50 clinics are held each year
• 68 permanent vision centers created in the U.S. China, India, The Gambia, Rwanda, Zambia and Bangladesh
• Permanent vision care access for 8 million people

 

 

Poor vision can hurt in school, in jobs, in relationships. This is true in the U.S. and the world over – 1.1 billion people still need glasses, but do not have access to vision care.[1]  It’s humbling to see how others around the world deal with issues impeding access to this care, and a simple pair of eyeglasses. And it’s deeply inspiring when organizations like OneSight and EyeMed come together to help.

 

 

When OneSight, its volunteers and donors step in, families can meet basic needs, communities can provide quality care for locals, by locals, and entire countries can advance the quality of life for all of its citizens. I can’t wait for my next visit with OneSight!

 

 

EyeMed’s mission to help people see life to the fullest, and our position as the fastest growing vision benefits company in America, give us a unique opportunity to be deeply involved in outreach efforts like OneSight. We welcome support from brokers, clients and vendors.  To see how you, or your company, can donate to OneSight, or help spread the word about the global vision care need, visit onesight.org/act/.

 

 

BL-1710-CB-670

 

 

1 “Bringing the Vision Care Crisis Into Focus”
http://onesight.org/wp-content/themes/onesight/assets/img/publications/us-bringing-vision-care-crisis-into-focus.pdf

 

 

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What it's like to bring eye care to The Gambia...and the world
What it's like to bring eye care to The Gambia...and the world