The Eye Mitra initiative trains and equips the under-employed of rural India to set up small ECP businesses. Here, two graduates share the difference the program has made to their financial security as well as to the communities they help.

Over the space of one year Rajendra Kumar Saini has become a certified eye care provider, small business owner and vision ambassador. He recently organized his own Vision Screening Event for over 200 people using an auto refractor bought from profits he has made over the last twelve months.

Rajendra is an Eye Mitra Optician (EMO), one of over 250 previously under employed youths now trained to provide basic vision testing in rural and semi-urban areas of India. They bring eye care to areas that would otherwise not have access to it and sell affordable spectacles. His business has been so successful that he has become the first EMO to be able to invest his earnings into his own auto refractor and begin to hold his own awareness raising vision screening events. However he is not the only person whose life has been changed by the program.

“After being trained as an optician with Eye Mitra, I have set up my own shop to conduct vision screenings as I continue to teach the children in the village.”, said Faiz Mohammad

Faiz Mohammad has been working as an Eye Mitra Optician for the past 8 months. He gave tuition to children to the children in his village before joining the EMO program, but it was not a good income on its own:

“I had no work in the day as the children are all at school so I had to search for employment elsewhere,” he said, “After being trained as an optician with Eye Mitra, I have set up my own shop to conduct vision screenings as I continue to teach the children in the village. I am very happy with my work and the villagers have taken to calling me ‘Eye Mitra’.”

Eye Mitra, which means “friend of the eyes” in Hindi, is a pioneering sustainable livelihood initiative that helps train, equip and empower young people all over India. It is a new program developed by 2.5 NVG, the inclusive business wing of Essilor that explores methods of building sustainable eye care platforms in areas without traditional eye care infrastructure.

To date, 6 EMO training centres have been launched with 236 EMOs now working. 2.5 NVG expects to double the number of trained EMO by the end of the year, as well as double the number of new wearers. Thanks to a new public private partnership agreement recently signed in Rajasthan, 4,000 youths are expected to be trained over the next three years in that state alone. “Since the beginning of the year we have equipped 70,000 new wearers, with EMO responsible for putting glasses on the faces of over a third of those wearers,” explained Saugata Banjeree, Head of 2.5 NVG India, “We have now partnered with several local skills and livelihood development agencies to roll out the training of EMO.”