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Vision Rescue International is a non-profit organization that has one mission: better vision for school children. For kids who have poor eyesight –and no corrective lenses, learning to read, write or use the computer is a near impossible task. Without these basic skills, their chance for success in life is severely limited.
Vision Rescue International was established to provide vision screening and correction for impoverished students. The process takes only ten to fifteen minutes per person and requires no electricity, optical lab or interpreter. The VRI method makes it possible to provide new glasses to children who are located in remote areas.
VRI has developed an extremely efficient methodology not used by any other vision correction organization. VRI uses round lenses and frames, which allows the prescribed axis of the lens to be rotated to correct astigmatism. These parts are easily assembled into new eyeglasses based on each prescription.
In September of 2004, founder Gordon Flattum presented VRI’s program to Miriam Casteneda, the Guatemalan Vice-Minister of Education. He requested permission to do a pilot project in order to prove VRI’s efficiency and cost effectiveness. The pilot would involve one thousand Guatemalan students in an area that would be representative of the whole of Guatemala. Thus the results of the study could be used to project the eye correction needs of the rest of the country. Miriam suggested the state of Sacatapequez, in the city of Antigua. This city is an ideal setting due to the mixture of urban, rural, and indigenous populations, as well as the wide spectrum of income levels.
A letter from the Guatemalan Minister of Education, Maria del Carmen Acena de Fuentes, dated September of 2004, requested that VRI proceed with the pilot project in the Sacatapequez school district. VRI established the parameters, and selected the schools that would participate in the pilot study.
On August 16, 2005, the screening team lead by Gordon Flattum, entered Antigua to begin screenings at the Pedro Bethencourt public school. One hundred students per day were scheduled for screening.
The equipment used for the screening was a vision tester, an autorefractor and a lensometer. If students needed vision correction, brand new glasses were assembled for them immediately.
Of the 818 students screened, 197, or 24%, needed vision correction. 179 teachers and administrators were screened, and 80% of them needed prescriptions for reading.
Before being fitted with prescription glasses, this boy was not able to see beyond his outstretched arm. Now, instead of being handicapped for the rest of his life, he can learn to read, obtain an education and lead a prosperous life.
The successful pilot project proved that the VRI process is efficient and cost effective. With the corrective lenses provided to them in only minutes by VRI those 197 students gained more than just eyesight. They gained confidence in themselves and hope for the future.
Gordon was invited to a special assembly where the school district superintendent gave him a letter of appreciation, and a request to complete the screening of the remaining 93,500 students, teachers, and administrators in the Sacatapequez district.
The Vice Minister of Education presented VRI with a government press release, a letter of recognition and an additional request to complete the screening of students in the Sacatapequez district.
Now that the Vision Rescue International program has proven to be viable and effective, VRI hopes to proceed with its mission to provide vision to children and adults who cannot see. The continuation of this unique program is critical, as nearly one in four students needs vision correction. Eyeglasses will provide students with the ability to see well enough to read and obtain an education; giving them the tools they need to succeed. Because this program is so cost effective, only a small investment from you now will provide children with a lifetime of good vision. It’s not just a donation, it’s an investment in the future.