Soluciones Comunitarias, a Smart Vision Labs strategic partner, recently held a vision campaign with the SVOne autorefractor in the small, rural town of Malacatancito, Guatemala. Huehuetenango Regional Coordinator Teodolinda Herrera (better known as “Teo”) had recently completing her SVOne training, and this was the first campaign she would lead. Teo attended to 13 people over the course of a few morning hours with her SVOne. 16-year-old Allan Estwaldo Suarez was one of her clients. His case is a prime example of the incredible impact that a pair of glasses can have on someone who has never previously had access.
Allan, who was accompanied by his mother Maria, shared with Teo that he had been having difficulties with his vision since as long as he could remember. In fact, in no small part due to this, he dropped out of school a few years ago and was now working as the janitor in his church. Allan was doing well in his job when Teo met him but he aspired to more. The problem was not that Maria didn’t want to help her son with his vision challenges—she simply couldn’t afford to do so. “Maybe if Allan continues to work it is something that he could save up for in the future,” Maria shared with Teo.
Maria had never been able to get glasses for Allan because the income she earned at her local taco stand made it impossible to pay the $25 for an exam and over $100 for glasses that the local optometrist charged in the nearest big town. This amounts to over a month’s earnings and makes it prohibitive for the vast majority of families in the area to get the glasses and/or overall vision care that they need. In response to this problem Teo launched her vision campaign. She travels from village to village giving free screenings and selling glasses from Smart Vision Labs partner, VisionSpring, for $6.50. She was referring people with obvious eye health issues to the nearest low-cost clinic a few hours away by bus.
According to protocol designed with the advice of US optometrists, Teo started the process with a visual acuity exam. Not surprisingly, Allan could not make out the direction of the “E” once he got to the 20/60 line. Upon finishing the visual acuity exam, Teo shared with him her conclusion that it indeed made perfect sense why he was having trouble seeing. At this point Allan, who seemed to have a great rapport with his mother, turned to her and said, “I told you so Mom.” Next, Teo used the SVOne to capture his sphere, cylinder and axis. He had very slight astigmatism bur really just needed the spherical equivalent glasses that Teo had to offer. As Soluciones Comunitarias has found, so many other Guatemalans in his area are hyperopic just like Allan.
Following the diagnosis, Teo had Allan try on a pair of glasses based on the SVOne results. They then checked his visual acuity again, this time while wearing glasses. He could now see well at 20/30. After walking around a bit with the glasses to make sure he was “20/Happy,” Allan came back to Teo with a big smile and said that he wanted to buy the glasses. Without hesitation his mother took the Q50 ($6.50) from her purse and paid Teo for Allan’s glasses. In casual conversation after the event Allan shared with Teo that he will now enroll in school again and give it another try.
Teo and the Soluciones Comunitarias team will stay in contact with Allan periodically. This ability to follow-up is one of the most powerful value-adds of having a local leader such as Teo doing this work in communities. Thanks to the SVOne in the hands of a dedicated team working to solve the challenges of rural poverty, Allan has another shot at getting an education and a better opportunity to pursue his dreams. Go get ‘em Allan!
If you are interested in launching your own vision campaign to help improve the lives of people like Allan, please reach out to email@example.com.