A Simple Solution That's Often Out of Reach

Imagine knowing you needed glasses, but not being able to get them.

“My parents couldn’t afford to take me to an eye doctor,” says Jasmine.

She is a 15-year-old student in Montebello, California, who hasn’t been able to see clearly since kindergarten. The last pair of glasses Jasmine had were three years old, and broken.

For many students in low-income communities, how they learn, engage with others and see the world is affected by a problem with a simple solution: glasses. In school they struggle, disengage and often fall behind. But if their parents can’t afford to miss work to take them to an eye doctor, this simple solution is as out of sight for them as the classroom blackboard.

“In class I always sat in the front,” she says. “My friends would help me take notes.”

Helen Keller International’s ChildSight program serves students between the ages of ten and fifteen whose families have limited access to health or vision care. Quick assessments identify those with vision that is 20/40 and poorer to receive on-site examination by an optometrist. Those needing glasses will select their frames from a stylist assortment and receive them within two weeks—free of charge.

Jasmine’s sight was 20/200—meaning that what someone with normal vision can see at 200 feet, Jasmine could only see at 20. But now she says everything is clear.

“I don’t have to sit in front. I can take my own notes,” she says. “I will do better in school and get better grades.”  — Courtney Meyer