‘We See,’ A Child Eye Health Project, Aims to Reduce Visual Impairment in South Africa by 90 Percent

Project will address population resources and needs for child eye health services through collaboration between business, government and social sectors

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Rancho Cordova, Calif., April 10, 2014 – A young girl in Soweto, South Africa, sits in a chair as an optometrist changes lenses and other settings in front of her eyes. He asks for feedback on what looks clearer. She responds tentatively, as this is her first time receiving an eye exam, and she’s mesmerized by what she can see. Up until this moment, she has not seen anything clearly past the end of her arm. And like most children in her community, she never realized this wasn’t normal.

For billions of people across the globe, lack of access to routine eyecare and eyewear hinders learning, which in turn reduces success in school, work and life. In South Africa alone, there are less than 300 optometrists available in the public sector for a population of 41 million. Youth are at a particular disadvantage as it is estimated that 6 out of 10 children in South Africa with reduced vision can be corrected with glasses, yet only 20 percent of those children needing glasses have them[i].

In response to the immense need, VSP Global® companies identified key partners in South Africa to develop a sustainable solution through the ‘We See’ Child Eye Health Project, including the opening of an eye health clinic at the Soweto Nike Football Centre. Over the next three years, the ‘We See’ Child Eye Health Project, in collaboration with implementing partner Brien Holden Vision Institute, will provide approximately 30,000 children with free eyecare and eyewear, donated by Nike Vision, with the goal of reducing the percentage of school children in the Soweto area with uncorrected visual impairment by 90 percent. Another implementing partner includes Marchon® Eyewear, the third largest manufacturer and distributor of eyewear in the world, including Nike Eyewear.

“The time we’ve spent in Soweto with Nike in 2012 reinforced the human impact that providing eye glasses to someone in need can have,” said Claudio Gottardi, president and CEO of Marchon Eyewear, a VSP Global company. “It was also our goal to establish a long-term relationship and impact in Soweto. I am proud to say we have done that in partnership with the National Education and Health Departments of South Africa and the Brien Holden Vision Institute.”

In coordination with the National Education and Health Departments of South Africa and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, the project will also fund health promotion and advocacy and establish in-school eye screenings and referral pathways for children whose visual problems need outside care.

“The Soweto Child Eye Health Program addresses a desperate need,” said Professor Kovin Naidoo, Global Programs Director for the Brien Holden Vision Institute. “Our country faces many social and economic challenges. In such a context of competing needs, it is critical that civil society, business and government work together to address children’s' needs since they are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society especially in a climate of limited resources. The Brien Holden Vision Institute applauds the concern and caring that Nike, VSP Global and government have shown in supporting this project. This Public Private Partnership is a quality investment in the future of our children,” concluded the Professor.

The ‘We See’ Child Eye Health Project stemmed from VSP Global’s desire to extend its charitable reach on an international scale. To do so, VSP Global joined Nike in Soweto in 2012 to evaluate ways the two companies could combine efforts in the region. A natural solution was to add an eye health component to Nike’s successful community health program, which has been dedicated to promoting education and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

“As a company, Nike is committed to helping people live healthier, active lives, and vision is a key component of that,” said Anwar Jappie, marketing director for Nike Africa. “Nike Vision has a tremendous opportunity to remove a barrier that is preventing kids in Soweto from getting the most out of their education, sports and life in general. This experience has inspired us to work together to create a program to ensure our athletes have new opportunities to be at the top of their game.”

Stay up-to-date on the progress of the ongoing project, meet all of the program partners — including Optometry Giving Sight and Just Eyewear — and meet the kids who are experiencing clear vision for the first time, by visiting the VSP Blog. To learn more about Nike Vision, visit www.nikevision.com.

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About VSP Global

VSP Global® unites industry-leading companies to bring high quality, high fashion eyewear, customized lenses and ophthalmic technology to help people see across the globe. VSP Global companies include not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the largest vision benefits and services company with more than 64 million members and a network of 30,000 eye doctors in the U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland; Marchon® Eyewear Inc., the third largest manufacturer, designer and distributor of quality fashion and technologically advanced eyewear in the world; Eyefinity ®, the largest premier practice management software company for the eyecare industry; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new lens technologies, production processes, service and logistics; and a recently announced new line of business focused on developing tools and solutions that both address current and future consumer demands and help eyecare providers become more competitive retailers. VSP Global companies operate in 100 countries on 6 continents.

About Brien Holden Vision Institute

Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation (formerly the International Centre for Eyecare Education) is a global non-profit, non-governmental organisation and the public health division of Brien Holden Vision Institute. In the last fourteen years, the Institute has delivered sustainable eye care services, education and training programs in 54 countries. The Institute is focused on the elimination of uncorrected vision impairment and avoidable blindness by developing eye care solutions within communities in most need, thereby improving opportunities in education, employment and quality of life. The public health division of the Institute is supported by Optometry Giving Sight.

About Nike

NIKE, Inc., based near Beaverton, Oregon, is the world’s leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly owned NIKE subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic footwear, apparel and accessories and Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes action sports and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories. For more information, visit www.nikeinc.com and follow @Nike.

 


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