OFF TO A STRONG START IN TANZANIA
Not too long ago, Craig Kasten was traveling in Tanzania when he noticed school children would stand just a few inches from the blackboard. He quickly realized they were having trouble seeing their lessons. From that experience, the charter project for SKYGEN International Foundation – improving vision care for Tanzanian children and adults – was born.
Late last week, a team from the Foundation arrived in Tanzania’s Arusha region to begin a sustainable project that will deliver prescription eyeglasses on-the-spot to 70% to 80% of the people who attend the vision screening events. Custom eyeglasses will arrive within 1-2 weeks for children and adults with a more complicated prescription.
First-Time Access to Vision Care
For many Tanzanians, SKYGEN International Foundation’s initiative will be the first opportunity to receive vision care. The country has just four eye doctors for every two million citizens. On Monday, the project team treated more than 300 children and adults. They saw more than 400 people on Tuesday, working through both evenings until it was too dark to see. Many more were asked to return for next week’s vision testing and eyeglasses distribution.
“We made a lot of people happy today.”
– Lisa Sweeney, Executive Director, SKYGEN International Foundation
Modern Technology Enables On-the-Spot Eyeglasses
SKYGEN International Foundation has brought three modern technologies together to make cost-effective vision care possible in the Arusha region:
- EyeNetra’s mobile diagnostic equipment for vision testing. The hand-held auto refractors are used to take measurements captured on a smartphone. The experience is similar to looking into the testing equipment at the DMV.
- Essilor’s Ready2Clip eyeglasses solution, which features attractive frames and pre-cut, interchangeable lenses which snap into the frames. Supplied by project partner Essilor Vision Foundation, Ready2Clip makes it possible to provide exact prescription eyeglasses on the spot – a critical capability for rural populations. Some of the Tanzanians who receive eyeglasses this week started walking from their homes around 3am to arrive at the clinic.
- SKYGEN’s Enterprise System vision platform, where the information collected will be stored and available for future use.
Welcomed by the ELCT
The SKYGEN team was welcomed at the Kilimanjaro airport by the familiar faces of Bishop Elias Kitoi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) and his son, Emanuel. The ELCT is an invaluable partner for this project, operating the clinics and hospital where the vision testing is being held. In addition, local Parliament Member Joshua Nassati is working side-by-side with the team each day.
Bishop Kitoi is providing executive oversight on the project, while Emanuel, a Chicago resident who studied at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, is project coordinator and translator. Prior to the arrival of the SKYGEN team, Emanuel hired about a dozen local employees to continue the initiative. This week, they are getting on-the-job training and helping to deliver vision care to as many children and adults as possible.
The Bishop has welcomed the project members in other ways as well. The team was introduced to the congregation during church services on Sunday, where they attended a huge luncheon. They’ve also shared a celebratory meal at the Bishop’s home, where SKYGEN International Foundation Executive Director Lisa Sweeney was honored with a gift of two roasted goats.
The SKYGEN International Foundation team is visiting a different clinic or hospital each day this week. Check back here Monday for the outcomes of this exciting charter project.