Scojo Foundation provides cheap eyeglasses to the third world

Monday, July 23, 2007

Surrounded by measuring tapes and ornate paintings of Hindu gods hanging on the walls of his dimly lighted workshop, Adimulam Devanand pushed the bridge of his glasses up his nose and hunched over a sewing machine to stitch a shirt.

A year ago, Devanand, 42, had lost the ability to see objects as fine as a needle and thread, and his tailoring business was faltering.

“I’d given up working altogether, and my wife had to do all the work,” he said over the hum of the sewing machine.

Desperate to support his two children, he went to a local clinic where he was found to have presbyopia, an age-related disorder in which the eyes progressively lose the ability to focus. The clinic sold him a pair of corrective glasses for 150 rupees, or $3.72.

Devanand was immediately able to return to his craft.

“Now I can share all the work with my wife,” he said, gesturing to the woman who sat at an adjacent sewing machine, “and business has doubled, thanks to my glasses.”

Devanand’s eyesight and livelihood were saved through the efforts of an innovative microfranchise program developed by the Scojo Foundation, a nonprofit social enterprise that uses market-based solutions to distribute inexpensive corrective glasses in the developing world.

Worldwide, according to Scojo, more than 700 million people who make less than $4 a day suffer from presbyopia, limiting their ability to make handicrafts, read a newspaper or find insects on crops and separate seeds. Sufferers face the dark prospect of diminished productivity and greater poverty.

But through Scojo, reading glasses that in the developed world can easily be found in any pharmacy or corner shop are becoming available to the world’s poorest people, giving them the opportunity to regain their livelihoods.

Full article.

Source: International Herald Tribune (link opens in a new window)