In order to achieve our goal of helping the world see, we must constantly seek out global approaches that are scalable, flexible and capable of withstanding long-term systems whenever possible. OneSight’s sustainable vision centers aim to do just that—providing permanent vision care access to communities in need. Each of our centers provide both physical and affordable vision care access to the surrounding community, ensuring that those that need screenings or prescriptions can get them. From start to finish, we partner with the local government and organizations to open the centers and train community members to run them.
Our sustainable efforts look a little different depending on where we are in the world. Some are heavily reliant on local government support, while others function with the help of NGO partners. Each require their own unique approach coupled with the same goal: to provide lasting infrastructure for community vision care access. Of all of the things that OneSight does to help the world see, these centers are what have the greatest impact on entire communities.
While OneSight sustainable centers are operated under a for-profit model, every dollar made is reinvested into the center to keep prices of services and eyewear low. The key is not to create dependence on us or any other organization. Our goal is to help build the infrastructure, support and train staff, and build awareness of the available vision care services for the population. Once we transfer operations of infrastructure over to the government or NGO partner, we continue to provide support as a consultant to help ensure their success. And as we continuously expand our sustainable efforts to different parts of the world, we continue to discover better solutions, adaptable approaches and opportunities to provide more people with access. Since our first center in 2013, we’ve opened up 129 centers worldwide.
The vision care crisis in China is vast—there are over 300 million people in Western China living with a vision issue that could be corrected with a pair of glasses. That’s why our long-standing partners at Stanford’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP) developed The Smart Focus group, which is working to close the vision care gap in China. We’ve invested in creating 40 new vision care centers in partnership with them, which will be up and running by the end of 2020. A main focus of these centers is to conduct vision care research which can then be used to form new national policies in vision care. So far, REAP/Smart Focus’ research has shown the positive impact of glasses and the vision centers in rural Chinese communities.
With the help of partners at LV Prasad and BRAC, we’ve managed to set up 28 sustainable vision care centers throughout India.
In a continued effort to bring permanent vision care solutions to Asia, OneSight expanded sustainable vision care centers into Bangladesh. These efforts were thanks to help from our partners at BRAC and LV Prasad who have helped us lead charitable clinics in addition to our ongoing work at the centers. OneSight’s role in Bangladesh has been to provide the initial and ongoing training for volunteers and staff.
Africa is home to some of our first sustainable vision centers. We’ve used an adaptable model to effectively cater to each African country’s unique set of needs. Since 2017, we’ve opened centers in Liberia with the help of Sightsavers and LV Prasad. Currently, there are only two centers open—but we have our sights on expanding our efforts beyond this formative stage.
In 2015, we opened our first center in Rwanda, marking the second African country where OneSight set up self-sustaining vision centers. Our first centers opened in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Health. We now have 20 centers and manufacturing lab open in district hospitals around the country with 23 more planned to open in order to bring access to the entire country.
In the heart of the Westrand District, OneSight South Africa opened the doors of its first sustainable vision clinic in 2018 in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health, The Westrand District and Carletonville Hospital. Serving the population of the Merafong sub-district, this center has created vision care access to 197,520 people within this sub-district. Our hope is to ideally open a few more sustainable centers between now and the end of 2020.
When OneSight piloted its first sustainable vision center in The Gambia, there was only 1 optometrist to serve the entire country of 1.8 million people. Since then, we’ve opened 7 permanent vision centers, a central manufacturing lab, and have created 84 new local jobs, which provide vision care access to all Gambians. And as of June 27, 2019, we celebrated the official transition of vision center operations to The Gambia government.
Our work in Africa expanded into Zambia when OneSight realized the country’s barriers to vision care access, which begin with a lack of awareness about why clear eyesight matters so much. Add to that a regionally high price tag on exams and glasses—and the inability for many people to travel from rural areas to city centers—and the challenges for our volunteers, partners, and community members are clear. Our strategic approach in Zambia mirrors the model used in The Gambia and has allowed us to establish 28 centers to date, which include both district vision centers and manufacturing capabilities.
Our sustainable model in the U.S. looks a little different than our traditional centers. Since 2012, we’ve opened 19 school-based vision centers in the US that provide affordable vision care to students and their families. By integrating vision care into student health care, we can provide children and in turn future generations with readily accessible, affordable care and information about eye health.
We’re constantly looking for opportunities to expand our sustainable work and foster permanent solutions for communities in need. If we find that an area has the infrastructure, support and logistical means for a permanent center, we work with the government and/or NGOs to develop a solution. And in some cases, we work with governments and partner organizations to enter new areas all together.
These advances in sustainable solutions are growing us closer to closing the vision care gap for good. But none of it would be possible without people like you. Join our efforts by donating $10 to provide a pair of glasses to someone in need.