LOCATION: Active in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Benin, and Bolivia, with system being set up in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Mexico
SUMMARY: By affordably disseminating eyeglasses to those in need, this project acts as a “trimtab” –opening up a host of other opportunities for people with vision impairments. There is an economic component in terms of the potential for skills training and livelihood opportunities. As a result, this worthy initiative stands out from usual charity models. It also exemplifies Fuller’s tenet to “do more with less”.
PROBLEM SPACE: According to the World Health Organization, there are over 158 million cases of distance vision impairment and 544 million cases of near vision impairment caused by uncorrected refractive error. The estimated loss in global gross domestic product due to distance vision impairment only is US$ 121.4 billion annually. This number would be far greater if near vision impairment numbers were added. Around 90% of the world’s visual impaired live in developing countries where job creation and local economy development is a challenge.OneDollarGlasses(ODG)is using a systemic approach to tackle all these issues together to improve vision health in countries. The ultimate goal of ODG is to provide glasses to the 700 millions people who can’t afford visual testing and aid as well as to set up self-sustaining business creating local employment on the long term. In order to provide 700 million people with high quality affordable eye care and glasses, Martin Aufmuth created the OneDollarGlasses, the machines to produce them locally with material costs of less than 1 USD, and the OneDollarGlasses NGO to train local people in developing countries to produce and sell the glasses as well as to test for vision problems and lead awareness raising campaigns. The ODG model seeks to set up sustainable businesses, raising the local capacity and awareness on eye care issues and providing jobs.
SOLUTION: ODG trains people to produce and sale the glasses. It also developed a curriculum to train its salesforce to do vision/refraction testing. As much as possible, ODG partners with opticians in the country to do the eye testing but when it is not possible, the ODG teams can do the test themselves. ODG is building new skills in eye care in-country and a new stream of jobs.ODG developed awareness raising material and campaigns targeted to developing countries needs so that vision issues don’t remain unseen.The machine to produce the OneDollarGlasses is a unique bending device including many custom-made tools. The lightweight frames are manufactured by bending spring steel wire into the needed form -there are three different sizes (small, medium, large) and different colors.The lenses (ranging from +8 to -10 with 0.5 increments) clip-in system enables the OneDollarGlasses to be ready instantly for the customer. The glasses frames are very resistant and the clip-in system allows for easy lenses repair.The glasses are sold around 2-3 times typical local daily wages. Thus, the glasses are affordable for everyone and the ODG-technicians earn enough to feed themselves and their families and cover the business costs.