After 5 years of effort by the global optometric community – Haiti’s first School of Optometry opens
Vision Source Optometrists and Optometry Giving Sight Support the Training of Haiti’s First Optometrists
Haiti has the highest level of blindness and vision impairment in the region and most of this is avoidable. It is 3 time higher than other countries in the region. An important reason for this is the critical shortage of qualified eye care personnel. In a country of over 10 million people, there are only 3 local optometrists.
April 12th, 2018 marked the official opening of Haiti’s first ever School of Optometry & Vision Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of I’Université d’État d’Haïti.
Over the last five years, Optometry Giving Sight and its partners from the global optometric community have come together to ensure that the people of Haiti can be trained to help their own communities, their country, and their fellow Haitians see a better future, quite literally, for generations to come.
This need for sustainable development is obvious. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the northern hemisphere yet working isn’t always an option, even for skilled tradespeople. Roc VilÍus, a Haitian shoe maker is just one example. “I can’t make a living without having my sight,” said Roc. Thanks to the efforts of Optometry Giving Sight and its partners, Mr. VilÍus was given glasses and is now able to support his family once again.
The shortage of eye care services leaves the majority of the Haitian people without adequate vision care. The school’s 5-year degree programme will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year. “The new graduates will have a significant impact for the eye care landscape in Haiti”, explains Dr. Juan Carlos Aragon, Chair of Optometry Giving Sight, “each being able to see 3,000 patients per year on average.”
Drs. Susan and Tom Quinn, Vision Source optometrists from Ohio and Optometry Giving Sight supporters for over ten years, travelled to Haiti this week to take part in the school’s first community outreach programs. “We’ve seen firsthand how the work of Optometry Giving Sight delivers on the vision of building optometry schools, educating talented local young people and providing continuity of care in underserved countries around the globe…We believe this school has the potential to profoundly transform lives.”
Jeff Duncan, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Vision Source, major donor and partner to the project said “With virtually no optometrists, there has been limited opportunity for the Haitians to obtain quality vision care. Vision Source feels privileged to play a role in helping build a sustainable foundation to change this. Partnering with Optometry Giving Sight, underscores Vision Source’s mission of ‘enriching lives by enabling independent optometrists to reach their full potential’.”
It’s this sustainable attitude from the global optometric community that has brought them together with Optometry Giving Sight – a mission to provide vision care in Haiti and around the world. Together with, the I’Université d’État d’Haïti, Brien Holden Vision Institute, VOSH International, Charity Vision, I’Université de Montréal, Vision Source, Essilor Canada and Digicel Foundation and many other integral supporters, there is sight for the people of Haiti.