Surrey optometrists join campaign to raise $1 million for global eye health

SURREY — For many Canadians, getting prescription eye glasses is no more difficult than a routine visit to a local optometrist. But in many developing nations, receiving medical eye exams is beyond the affordability of the average person.

Which is why optometrists throughout Canada will be raising funds for Optometry Giving Sight, the only global fundraising initiative that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error — or in layman’s terms, the need for an eye examination and glasses.

FYidoctors in Surrey have supported the fundraising efforts for the past six years and will be participating again this year, throughout the month of October, and on World Sight Day on Oct. 9. Local optometrists Dr. Angela Hern, Dr. Nixon White, Dr. John Black, Dr. Sandeep Sidhu, Dr. Anisha Bhagat and Dr. Kimberly Tsang, will be donating portions of their eye exams and encouraging patients to donate to Optometry Giving Sight.

"Eyesight in and of itself is a very important sense to have for quality of life purposes and for just the betterment of people’s livelihoods," said Tsang, who has been part of the event for six years. "Some countries outside of Canada, unfortunately, don’t have the resources for eye care and glasses."

World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. It is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) as part of the VISION 2020 Global Initiative. It is also supported by eye health organizations around the world and is included on the official World Health Organization (WHO) calendar.

2014 is the first year of the WHO Global Action Plan (GAP) and IAPB encourages its members and partners to continue with the rolling theme Universal Eye Health. This year, the call to action for World Sight Day is No more Avoidable Blindness and will draw attention to the key interventions that are crucial for the success of GAP’s target — reducing avoidable blindness by 25 per cent, by 2019.

Tsang said the money raised by the charity can provide training for local optometrists in developing nations like Sri Lanka and Tanzania, or the establishment of vision centres for trained optometrists.

Those donations can go much further in the developing world. For instance, just $5 can provide one person with an eye exam and a pair of glasses.

Tsang said the needs for eye care vary based on country and population.

"Different environments that are much drier and harsher, a lot more sunlight can expose populations at greater risks of developing certain eye diseases," she said. "And certain types of genetics, as well, predisposes them to certain types of need for different glasses or eyewear that we don’t see as commonly here in Canada."

There are an estimated 600 million people worldwide who are needlessly blind or vision impaired because of a lack of affordable and available eye care.

Donations

How donations can help:

$50 can help provide a study kit to an optometry student

$100 can help provide 20 people with access to an eye exam and glasses

$300 can help to provide a child size trial frame

$1,200 could pay a month’s salary for an optometrist to see up to 40 patients a day

To date Optometry Giving Sight has funded 67 projects in 38 countries. For more information, go to www.givingsight.org.

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