Cali, Colombia is the third largest city in the country and boasts city views with a mountainous backdrop. Its vibrant culture and contagious salsa dancing bring this area to life. Yet, just on the outskirts of the colorful city lie communities and people living in a world of routine challenge. Countless residents are living below the poverty line in precarious conditions, many of which are of African descent. Internally Displaced Populations (IDP) of the Colombian conflict and Venezualan refugees make up a majority of the population in this region. Afro-Colombian group are representative of 60% of Cali’s population, of which 40% are unemployed.
Financial challenges are often the main barrier to accessing vision care for residents. The average salary for a job in Cali is just $6,000/year or $3/hour, with median household incomes averaging $150/month. Even those that are medically insured usually lack eye care coverage. And with low incomes placing strain on achieving one’s most basic needs, the $60 cost for basic prescription glasses is generally out of reach.
That’s why from September 2 – 7, our team traveled to the poorest neighborhoods of Cali to serve 3365 patients in need with the help of GMO Colombia, Essilor Colombia, Casa de Colombia and the governments of Cali and Valle del Cauca. Populations served included those residing in Escuela Nuevo Latir, Distrito de Aguablanca, and Valle Del Cauca. Of those served, nearly 500 (15%) of the people in which we served were refugees seeking asylum.
EXPANDING OUR REACH TO REFUGEE POPULATIONS
In Colombia, there are over 1.1 million refugees that have fled from political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. Many of these people are struggling to fulfill their most basic primary needs, let alone their need for vision care. That’s why this year – for the first time ever – OneSight has extended our reach to serve refugee populations residing in Cali.
This is a huge milestone for OneSight. Not only because of the impact that we know access to vision care can have on these vulnerable populations’ lives, but also because this is a huge stepping stone for OneSight’s work in Latin America. While we’ve returned to the region three times since 2015, this is the first time we’ve been able to serve refugees. And with a goal as big as bringing vision care access to every person, everywhere, each step we make to expand our reach grows us closer to helping the world see clearly.
It’s stories like Maria and Sabastian Sanchez’s that inspire us to keep striving for more. To continue seeking out new opportunities to bring vision care and prescription glasses to those that otherwise wouldn’t have it. In the words of one of our 2019 Colombia clinic volunteers, Chevalia Tatum, “OneSight means so much more to me than providing the gift of sight. It means giving the gift of life.”
Give the gift of life to someone in need by donating $10 to provide someone in need with a pair of glasses and a future that’s in focus.