Helping 272 people in the Filipino slums to see clearly - Essilor See Change

In late May Essilor Vision Foundation joined hands with the Singapore based eye surgeon Pauline Cheong and her team. Together they helped more than 272 Filipinos in need to see the world better. We are happy to share their feedback.

During a two day screening event in late May, volunteers working with Pauline Cheong, a Singapore based eye surgeon, screened more than 400 people in two provinces near the country’s capital, Manila. Cavite is one of the most populated provinces in the Philippines and Tondo (Rizal), located to the north-west of Manila counts as one of the poorest and most underdeveloped areas of the country. More than half of the people screened, needed vision correction; and many of them have never had eye tests before. All people tested who suffered from vision problems received free spectacles that were distributed during the three weeks following the event.  Pauline Cheong and her team provided recycled frames, and Essilor Vision Foundation sponsored the corrective lenses.

Given the high poverty rate in these parts of the Philippines, financial inaccessibility is one of the major reasons why so many people suffer from uncorrected poor vision. Individuals like these are a key target of Essilor Vision Foundation, which was created with the aim of bringing better vision to underserved populations. The Foundation supports many initiatives to bring the positive impacts of good vision to people who most need help due to their economic conditions, very often on the poverty line.

Welhelwina Cunanan Agulan, a 49 year-old woman from Navotas city, for example, was well aware of her vision problem. She had glasses but when they broke, she couldn’t afford to buy a new pair. She says: “These new spectacles are so useful. I will now be able  to do many things again that I was deprived of for such a long time. I wasn’t able to read books or newspapers whose type is particularly small. I wasn’t able go alone to any new places without being accompanied, as I couldn’t see the signs. Whenever I had to fill out application forms or other documents I had to rely on someone’s help. I’m very thankful for this new pair of glasses that I could not have afforded myself.”

These new spectacles are so useful, I will be able now to do many things again that I was deprived from for such a long time.

Jesus Palanga, a 54 year-old from NBBS Navotas, has a similar story. He knew he was suffering from serious vision problems but was not able to afford the appropriate glasses. His vision problems handicapped him considerably at work: “I am a carpenter. Before I received my new glasses, it was very difficult for me to see the figures on the meter stick or measuring tape. There were times I even injured myself due to my inability to see properly. I hammered my nail more than once because I couldn’t see clearly.  I also had a really hard time recognizing people’s faces, even if they were just a couple of steps away from me. This can be very embarrassing.” He laughs a bit and adds: “Seeing how these glasses make my life easier, I really take care of them.”

There were times I even injured myself due to my incapability to see properly. I hammered my nail more than once because I couldn’t see clearly.

Tatay Federico, one of the older people who benefited from getting new glasses said: “I lost my vision little by little as I got older. For me reading was one of the hardest things. Also when I left my house when it was dark, I couldn’t see anything. I remember that once I fell in the  road. I was always afraid  this would happen again so I just stopped going anywhere at night. Now that I received these glasses I can see clearly even at night. I can go wherever I want and it is not hard for me to read.” Nanay Bella Micayas, an elderly woman also explained the problems she met when managing her daily life with poor vision: “Many things in the household became difficult for me, for example reading ingredients, or doing little simple things like putting on my earrings. Reading was so hard for me that it caused serious headache.”

There were also many adolescents and children among the people who joined the screening event and needed vision correction. For these young people, quality vision is particularly important as 80% of what they learn – if they have the chance to go to school – comes through their eyesFour fifths of all vision impairment among children is preventable or treatable if corrected in time and can help them avoid serious long term consequences or even blindness.

When I was writing notes from the blackboard, the letters were so small that I didn’t want to write.

Heidee Tornea, a young girl who received her first pair of glasses, told us about the challenges she met at school when she couldn’t see properly: “When I was writing notes from the blackboard, the letters were so small that I didn’t want to write. Now I can see them much bigger and it is so easy to write them down.” Dyvie mae Trono, another girl explained: “Before I received the glasses, I always felt dizzy, my eyes were blurred. Sometimes I didn’t see where I was walking and bumped into other people.” At school Dyvie made similar experiences as Heidee: “I didn’t see what I needed to write, so I asked my neighbors for help and copied from them.”

Essilor Vision Foundation and the engagement of Dr. Pauline Cheung and her excellent team, helped put a smile on these people’s faces and bring a long-term positive impact on their lives. Thanks to all of them for sharing their experiences with us. For more insights into this valuable initiative, click here to see the video.