On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, David Evangelista, VP Global Development and Government Relations for Special Olympics, shares on how his organization is working with Essilor to improve the lives of some of the world’s most marginalized people.
On the 8th of November 2013, the landscape of Tacloban, a city of just over 200,000 people located some 500km in the Visayas islands in the Philippines changed forever.
As Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the city, which once served as the capital of the Philippines, families were torn apart and entire communities were relegated to rubble. Two years later, Tacloban still struggles to recover.
The government and international aid organizations have provided funds and donated supplies to assist in the recovery. Amidst this recovery effort, there is a partnership that is looking to restore hope for a population often left off the radar of such efforts.
Through the Opening Eyes program, Special Olympics Philippines and the Essilor Vision Foundation joined forces to bring vision care to those with intellectual disabilities in Tacloban
In mid-July 2015, through the Opening Eyes vision care program, Special Olympics Philippines and the Essilor Vision Foundation joined forces to bring direct eye health and vision care services to children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Tacloban. Special Olympics and the Essilor Vision Foundation worked to provide key services to benefit perhaps the most marginalized victims of Typhoon Haiyan. At the event, children and adults with intellectual disabilities were provided with high quality vision screenings, together with custom-made eyewear from the Essilor Vision Foundation- in partnership with global civic leaders like Lions Clubs International and industry partners such as Safilo Group, Liberty Sport, and the national optometric association of the Philippines.
Families who were also welcomed to the event received health education on how to care for the new eyewear- and information about local resources available to support sustained care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The Opening Eyes screening in Tacloban could be mistakenly categorized as an isolated event to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities are offered some of the benefits of Tacloban’s reconstruction. However, when one investigates further, it becomes clear that the small but significant Opening Eyes screening in the still visible aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan represents part of a strong, and expanding, commitment from the Essilor Group and its Foundation to not only support the vision care of individuals with intellectual disabilities, but also empower them to become agents of change in their communities.
Brina Maxino is a great example of such an agent of change.
A recognized Special Olympics Philippines athlete, and an 18-year old young woman with a contagious positive energy, Brina and her Unified teammate Sashi Montana, qualified as one of the top five finalists pairs at the GenUin Social Impact Summit, which was held alongside the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, California (USA) last July. Together, Brina and Sashi have created a social impact project in Manila that will offer interactive games to youth in shopping centers and malls across the capital, all designed to increase awareness among youth about the importance of proper vision care, and the ways in which health vision translates into healthy lifestyles.
Brina and Sashi have created a social impact project in Manila designed to increase awareness among youth about the importance of proper vision care
“Disability is not an inability to have a better life. That’s what we want to show,” said Brina during her interview with the press in Los Angeles.
The project, titled “Eye Can Play”, aims to not only increase awareness of the importance of vision care among youth in the Philippines, but to also increase awareness about the significant role that individuals of all ability levels can play to make the world a better place.
“We as a global company stand with Brina, Sashi, and the Movement of Special Olympics in turning the page for a new day- when all individuals are empowered to make our world a better place for all,” said Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Chief Corporate Mission Officer for Essilor International. “It is undeniable the power that Brina brings to this platform, and the benefits that she will undoubtedly spread to youth throughout the Philippines in accessing better, and more sustained, vision care services.”
Over 100,000 Special Olympics athletes from around the world have received eyeglasses through the support of Essilor and its Foundation
On the occasion of 3 December, the day each year that the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Special Olympics celebrates the contributions of the Essilor Vision Foundation and the strong and growing partnership it shares. Since 2002, Special Olympics and Essilor share a global partnership dedicated to bringing improved eye care to all Special Olympics athletes through the Opening Eyes program, which is now active in over 80 countries worldwide.
Over 100,000 Special Olympics athletes from around the world have received prescription eyeglasses through the support of Essilor and its Foundation as part of the Group’s mission to improve lives by improving sight.