The Gift of Sight for Children across Jamaica

On a recent day at a primary school in rural Westmoreland, Jamaica, a teacher sat at her desk in the front of the brightly painted classroom with a young boy by her side. He watched intently as she reviewed his assignments, her pen poised to create the check marks that would indicate good work. With each check mark she made his anticipation surely grew.

Finally, the last stroke of her pen formed the shape of another check mark. Immediately she turned to the boy and raised her hand for a celebratory high-five. “Justin did it,” she exclaimed! A brief moment, perhaps, but a milestone nonetheless.

Justin stuggled with poor visionJustin receiving his first pair of glassesFor six-year-old Justin success in school has not come easily. Significant vision impairment hampered his earlier efforts to succeed. For children like Justin who are unable to see clearly, the classroom is especially challenging. They struggle with written directions, reading comprehension, completing assignments and can have trouble staying focused in school. And, beyond the classroom, vision impairment can severely impact a child’s ability to interact with peers and participate in social and physical activities.

Justin’s teachers suspected he was struggling before Justin could even articulate what was wrong. Yet, thanks to the See Better.Learn Better initiative funded in part by Optometry Giving Sight, Justin underwent an in-school vision screening – his first — offered twice yearly by See Better.Learn Better in numerous primary schools in Jamaica.

Through the program, students at the schools undergo an annual eye exam and receive eyeglasses if needed. And, students are referred to other professionals for additional testing and treatment if necessary. Justin received prescription glasses and was referred for further testing. Students are then re-screened several times throughout their first six years in school. If their vision needs change – or they need different glasses to accommodate their growing bodies – they are given a new pair. And all of this is provided at no cost, thanks to donors who give so generously to Optometry Giving Sight to support programs such as See Better.Learn Better Jamaica. Click here to see a video of Justin.

Justin had many frame choices when he outgrew his original glasses.Eyesight has made a world of difference for JustinIt is estimated that 80% of what children learn is visually-based. Good vision helps us navigate the world, allows us to learn by doing, enables us to make sense of what we experience around us, and improves our ability to engage with the world and others in it. Imagine how much Justin might have missed if he hadn’t received this initial vision screening.

Good vision is a gift. And we hope that this holiday season you will consider giving the gift of sight to others like Justin. A one-time or recurring donation to Optometry Giving Sight allows us to continue our support of See Better.Learn Better and other sustainable programs whose goal it is to end preventable vision impairment and blindness in areas of the world in which a simple eye exam can be the difference between a life lived on the sidelines and a life fully lived.

Optometry Giving Sight supports sustainable and scalable optometry-led programs that educate eye care providers locally and enable the establishment and delivery of vision care and eye health to all. Please click here to make a donation.