Silk farmers in China benefit from Vision Ambassador program - Essilor See Change

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Along the historic southern silk route that once crossed Yunnan, Zhao Hongmei is bringing vision care to her community and supporting the local silk farming ecosystem.

Dayao has long been a traditional centre for silk making. Zhao’s family owns a small factory that buys silk from nearby silkworm farmers in order to produce quilts. It’s estimated that more than 10 million farmers in China raise silk worms, with another half a million employed in the production of silk fabric. Both activities are very labour-intensive: for example silk worms need to be fed up to ten times a day, with as much as 3kg of mulberry leaves.

In this small-scale industry good vision is essential. Having heard about a local scheme to train people to become vision ambassadors, Zhao contacted the county hospital to find out how she could get involved to help her family, their suppliers and customers in the village.

Vision is a real need for silk workers. Worm eggs are tiny, so near vision glasses are important to see clearly.

“Vision is a real need for silk workers. Worm eggs are tiny, so near vision glasses are important to see clearly. The workers also need sunglasses to protect their eyes when they go to work in the field to pick mulberry leaves that feed the worms.”

Zhao attended training in August this year, as part of a vision ambassador scheme in Yunnan to create local eye care enablers for people living in rural areas who have little access to eye care. She was trained to carry out screenings and be able to provide near vision correction and protection through reading glasses and sunglasses.

“In the first month I sold at least one pair of glasses each day. In addition to contributing to my daily income, this service really helps my community and I am happy to see the smile on people’s faces when they wear their glasses.”

Essilor’s 2.5 New Vision Generation inclusive business division supports two vision ambassador programs in Yunnan – a mountainous landlocked province with a population of 48 million, 50% of whom live in remote and rural areas.

Find out more in our video exploring the experiences of one recently-trained vision ambassador