Bringing quality vison care to rural China through Eye Partners - Essilor See Change

Uncorrected poor vision, the world’s largest unaddressed disability, affects 600 million people in China – many living in rural areas without access to and awareness of vision care. To bring good vision to all, Essilor 2.5 New Vision Generation (NVG) is strengthening vision care infrastructure in counties, townships and villages through the Eye Partner program. This forms part of EssilorLuxottica’s goal to eliminate uncorrected poor vision by 2050.

In the shadow of the pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing measures have disproportionately impacted the livelihoods of China’s rural families, with an estimated loss of around $100 billion in rural migrant worker wages alone after just one month of COVID-19 restrictions.

We spoke to Sun Fudong, a 2.5 NVG Eye Partner based in Yingdong District, Fuyang city (Anhui province) to learn more about the important role he and his family plays in bringing quality vision care to his community and the challenges his store faced amid the pandemic.

Eye Partners in townships form an important pillar of the vision care infrastructure in rural China
Eye Partners in townships form an important pillar of the vision care infrastructure in rural China
  1. What did you do before you became a 2.5 NVG Eye Partner?

From 1996 to 2018, I was a street vendor repairing clocks, selling spare parts as well as some reading glasses and sunglasses. A friend suggested for me to sell optical glasses to increase my income. I learned how to conduct basic refraction tests, but as I was not professionally trained, my store did not have a good reputation and I only managed to sell on average one to two pairs of optical glasses every month.

  1. When did you join the Eye Partner programme?

I was approached by a 2.5 NVG representative in 2019 after he saw the “refraction and eyeglasses” poster on my shop window. After learning about my situation, he shared about the benefits of joining the 2.5 NVG Eye Partner program, such as the opportunity to learn professional skills and having access to quality eyeglasses through 2.5 NVG to improve my business. He also shared some examples of how optical stores in other townships do business.

  1. Why did you choose to become an Eye Partner?

I was willing to become an Eye Partner because there are opportunities to learn and to improve. In the past I did not have access to such trainings, and regular wholesalers wouldn’t work with me as my purchase volume was too small.

  1. What kind of training have you received from 2.5 NVG and how has it benefited you?

My son attended the vocational training offered by 2.5 NVG and participated in the exchange gatherings in Fuyang and Nanking. The professional training helped improve my business significantly. 2.5 NVG also helped with promotional activities and marketing skills.

  1. Can you share some personal stories of how the glasses have benefited your customers?

There was a girl whose performance at school was affected because she is myopic. However, her grandmother had a misconception that myopia would worsen through wearing eyeglasses and refused to have a pair made for her. Armed with my vision care knowledge, I was able to convince the girl to wear eyeglasses so that she could see better and improve her performance at school. I even offered to provide her a full refund if she saw no improvement after wearing eyeglasses for a month. Shortly after, the grandmother came with the girl to thank me, saying that the glasses made a huge difference to her quality of life.

  1. How did COVID-19 impact your business? What challenges did you face?

My business was visibly affected. There was less traffic because of the lockdown and because parents working in the cities could not return to the township, hardly anyone brought their children for eye checks and refraction tests.

  1. What kind of support did 2.5 NVG provide to help you keep your business afloat?

2.5 NVG taught me to keep in touch with my existing customers virtually, make one-on-one appointments with them to minimize the risk of infection, and sell reading glasses online. They also made digital posters and texts for us to share on WeChat Moments to promote vision care knowledge.

  1. Has your business recovered from COVID-19?

My store has resumed normal operation. As COVID-19 is under control in China, our life is back to normal. Thanks to efforts made during the COVID-19 period, my business now is better than the same period in previous years.