School children in Guatemala



History

While visiting Guatemala in 2000, Gordon Flattum noticed that many children did not wear glasses. He realized the poverty that these children lived in and decided that a Pilot Project should be performed to determine if these students needed vision correction.

In 2004 Ms. Berta Calderon, and a prominent business woman in Guatemala, arranged for Gordon Flattum to meet with the Vice Ministra of Education of Guatemala. At that meeting Gordon explained that he would like to perform a Pilot Project to determine the extent of students’ need for vision correction. The Vice Ministra explained that there was a need, and that most students could not afford vision correction, and agreed that a Pilot Project was necessary, and that the project should be held in La Antigua in the State of Sacatepéquez.

Gordon next needed to obtain the necessary equipment and supplies to accomplish the project. Through the Optical department of Wal-Mart he located Dr. John Rivera, who had developed a system of using round frames and lenses, to rapidly provide vision correction. Gordon then borrowed an auto refractor for screening vision. Dr. Rivera agreed to help for four days of the 10 day Pilot Project to test his new system.

The Pilot Project was completed during the 10 day period and the Ministry of Education of Guatemala and the State of Sacatepéquez requested that VRI vision screen and provide glasses for the remainder of the 93,500 students and teachers in the State of Sacatepéquez.

Due to our good fortune in receiving lenses and frames, and because the lab and the schools at which we will do vision screening all have electricity, we plan to prepare the glasses by grinding the lenses and will not be using pre-formed round lenses as we did during our pilot project. However, when we go to outlying villages, we will use a portable auto refractor that uses batteries for vision screening. Following vision screening, we will prepare the glasses in our lab.

Future

Currently, Bruce Wallace, OD, Owner of Vision Express, in Federal Way, Washington, and possibly two of his associates are committed to help VRI with the screening and prescriptions in 2013. In addition, Dr. Wallace will donate an auto refractor and a hand held portable auto refractor, both of which we can use in the schools and small remote villages. These donations will give us the ability to vision screen and prepare prescriptions for 300 students per day. To speed up this process, we plan to use school personnel to begin vision screening this year to determine which students need further testing, and possibly prescription glasses.