Children's Vision Project

During a 2004 trip to Bolivia I discovered that there does not exist a program for screening young children for vision problems as is common here in the USA. At the same time the cost of a private eye exam and corrective eyeglasses is totally out of reach of the poorest children, the indigenous kids for the most part.

Enabling children to see well seems like a worthwhile thing to do for a lot of reasons. So, Dharma to the rescue!

In partnership with Solidarity Bridge, we established the "Children's Vision Program" and hired a Bolivian coordinator and three assistants to go into the schools and orphanages in the poorest areas and test the kids for vision problems.

Those who test with problems are taken on Saturdays to an opthamologist for a complete eye exam. The opthamologist provides a prescription for eyeglasses for each child which are then emailed to Dharma in batches.

We in turn, email the prescriptions to China where our agent arranges the manufacture. The finished glasses are then sent by Fed Ex to Bolivia for distribution to the children. Dharma covers all the costs to enable this to happen.

The plan is to screen 6000 children a year with an estimated 20% needing glasses or 1200 glasses.

We have started in Cochabamba and if all goes well, we would look at expanding the program into other cities in Bolivia and perhaps other countries as well.

It is now mid 2008 and it has taken a while to get this going. Lot's of delays and problems but it's picking up speed now and we are near on target to screen at the rate of 6000 kids per year and provide glasses more than 1200 children.

How cool is that!

January 2009 Update

During 2008 we were able to screen 8463 children, sent 1039 to the ophthalmologists for a full exam, and provided glasses for 930.

For 2009 we are doubling the size of the program. We have hired an assistant coordinator and three additional screeners and a data entry person. This brings the personal total up to about 9 people, some part time. This allows two teams screening each day. To encourage cooperation of the teachers, we now also screen, exam and provide glasses for the teachers where needed. In addition, we have purchased a used van for transport and an additional laptop.

October 2009 Update

I was able to spend a morning with the team doing preliminary screening at a school on the outskirts of Cochabamba, and an afternoon distributing glasses to a group of children at a community center.

We are on track to screen 14,000 children for vision problems in 2009, send maybe 2000 for a full Opthamological exam, and provide glasses for maybe 1,600.

Very cool indeed!

January 2011 Update

In 2009 we did an evaluation of the project to determine its effectiveness. We contacted 90 children in 3 schools who had been tested and provided glasses about 1 year ago. Sadly, we discovered that only 30 were using their glasses - the other 60 had either lost or broken them.

This was not an acceptable cost/benefit ratio. It was costing too much to provide each pair of glasses and 2/3 were not in use within a year. This did not seem to be the best use of the funds available. Other projects could provide "more bang for the buck". At the end of 2010 we closed the project down.

What was accomplished was as follows:


Kid's Vision


Teacher's Vision