5 VILLAGES IN 5 DAYS
SKYGEN International Foundation wrapped up its week-long charter project with a bigger impact than planned. More than 1,600 Tanzanians received vision testing and prescription eyeglasses, exceeding the goal of providing vision care to 1,500 children and adults.
The SKYGEN Foundation team and project partners set up their mobile vision testing in a different village each day at clinics and a hospital run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT), another project partner. The team worked from 10 in the morning until sunset daily, when lack of light became an issue. Then, the team collaborated on improvements that would allow them to see even more people the next day. Tanzanians from several generations visited the clinics, from school-age children to a few adults over the age of 100.
“When we arrived to find well over 300 people already in line for the chance to receive a vision test and eyeglasses, it really highlighted the deficiency of available vision care in underserved parts of the world. It was heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces of our patients as they donned their new eyeglasses, now able to see clearly for the first time in their lives.”
- Brett R. Bennett, SKYGEN International Foundation team member
“When I saw a 99-year-old man's face light up from being able to see well for the first time, all of the bumps in the road we went through disappeared.”
- Alex Rood, SKYGEN International Foundation team member
MAKING VISION CARE SUSTAINABLE IN TANZANIA
While the week was a memorable one for 1,600 Tanzanians, the SKYGEN International Foundation project is also a win for the Arusha region. “One of our very important goals is to make this project sustainable,” said Lisa Sweeney, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “Our project coordinator Emanuel Kitoi will stay in Tanzania through October to continue offering vision care at several other locations, including schools. About a dozen local residents we’ve hired worked alongside us last week to learn the process and use of the equipment, which we’ve left with them. Now that we’ve seen this mobile model can work, we have plans underway for the long term.”
The next couple weeks after the initial visit, the Tanzania team delivered custom eyeglasses for those with more complicated prescriptions. They also provided testing and eyeglasses to individuals who were not able to be seen in the first week.
BETTER VISION FOR SCHOOL AND FOR LIFE
SKYGEN Foundation chose Tanzania in part because of the country’s demographics. More than 66% of the nation’s population is under the age of 25, and the SKYGEN Foundation team was able to provide prescription eyeglasses to some children last week. Many more did not attend because they were in school, but the foundation has secured approval for its Tanzania team to take its mobile clinic to both ELCT and public schools in the coming weeks.
Most of these students are trilingual, speaking their village dialect at home, and learning the national language of Swahili in school as well as English. Clear vision will promote greater achievement in school and a better quality of life for these young Tanzanians. We hope they’ll be the “coolest” kids in school as they return with their stylish new specs.
“We’re very grateful to our strategic partners Essilor, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, and EyeNetra,” said Sweeney. “Their commitment and collaboration has been vital in helping SKYGEN International Foundation get our charter project off to a strong start.”