Sight for Kids, a Powerful Partnership

Sight for Kids, a Powerful Partnership

Ben was 3 years old. He should have felt happy, inquisitive, and brave. Instead, he always seemed to have an angry expression on his face. He rarely smiled. In addition, he had delayed motor skills and difficulty walking; he would frequently run into things. He was frustrated and expressed it through crying and tantrums. Confused by his behavior, Ben’s parents were not sure how to help him. What they didn’t know was that Ben was struggling to see the world clearly.

Ben’s parent’s suspected there might be something wrong with his vision, but couldn’t afford to take him to the doctor. Then they learned about Sight for Kids, a school-based partnership program between Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and Johnson & Johnson Vision. Sight for Kids Kenya organized an outreach camp in Ben’s home city of Kisumu in western Kenya. Though he was not yet old enough for school, Ben was brought in for a special evaluation. After some testing, doctors diagnosed Ben with a dense congenital cataract in his right eye, rendering him completely blind in that eye. He likely had it since birth.

Ben’s parents brought him to the Lions SightFirst Eye Hospital for an operation at no cost to them. A surgeon removed the cataract from Ben’s eye, taking away the dark cloud over his vision. After surgery, Ben needed glasses, which were also free of cost. When he put on his glasses for the first time, Ben’s angry grimace disappeared. In fact, he grinned. Then he started laughing. He was seeing clearly for the first time in his life.

“A lot of people just do not know what eye health is,” says Dr. Tanvi Shah, Senior Optometrist and Sight for Kids Kenya Chairperson at Lions SightFirst Eye Hospital. “Children do not know what normal eye sight is, so a lot of these eye conditions go undetected due to lack of awareness and lack of access to treatment facilities and funds,” she says.

Lions and Johnson & Johnson Vision team members spend time with children at a vision screening in Kenya.

Through the caring support from doctors with the Sight for Kids program, Ben’s entire life changed. He went from being categorized as a “naughty” child with puzzling behavior to a happy, healthy toddler with the same capabilities as other kids his age. Dr. Shah even described him as “bubbly.”

Nearly 19 million children are visually impaired globally. Of these, two out of three need access to simple eyeglasses.

Ben has fun playing in his new reality, thanks to Sight for Kids.

A Partnership for Kids

Sight for Kids is a community-based eye health education and vision screening referral program for children created through the partnership between LCIF and Johnson & Johnson Vision in 2001. The program mobilizes local eye care professionals, Lions, and volunteers to conduct vision screenings in low-income schools and provides teachers with eye health training. When a potential eye problem is detected, the program refers the student to a doctor for an exam and provides eyeglasses or other necessary treatment. Eyeglasses for refractive errors are the most common form of treatment from Sight for Kids, but the program also catches impairments that are more serious—like Ben’s cataract—that could lead to irreversible vision loss, missing developmental skills, and lost social opportunities.

Sight for Kids began with just a few program sites in Asia and a goal to provide schools with as much eye health care, education, and awareness as possible. In recent years, thanks to the global network of support between local Lions, LCIF, and Johnson & Johnson Vision, Sight for Kids has grown to reach new cities in China, Turkey, and Kenya. Today, Sight for Kids is believed to be the largest school-based vision screening program in the world.

Locally, Lions are critical stakeholders for the program. Lions recruit local eye care professionals and help engage and gain permission from health ministries, departments of education, and school leaders to turn teachers into champions of healthy eyes. They also help parents navigate the process of getting eye care for their children, easing their worries about cost and helping them gain access to experienced professionals.

Shared Values

Sight for Kids’ tremendous growth can be attributed to the shared values between Lions and Johnson & Johnson Vision. Johnson & Johnson Vision believes in improving local communities and global health through their vision “to help people see better, connect better, live better.” Lions are “knights of the blind,” dedicated to ending preventable blindness in underserved communities all across the globe.

“Sight allows us to uniquely connect with life’s moments—and with each other. At Johnson & Johnson Vision, we are connected by a powerful purpose—to change the trajectory of global eye health,” says Shlomi Nachman, Company Group Chairman for Johnson & Johnson Vision and Interventional Solutions & Specialty Surgery. “That’s why, every day, we work with eye care professionals to connect cutting-edge insights, science, and technology and increase awareness to solve a lifetime of eye health needs. From protecting and correcting vision to allow our youngest patients to grow, play, and learn; to enhancing and restoring vision to fully experience the lives we’ve built…we’re there every step of the way. Together, we are creating a world connected by sight.”

Through LCIF and Johnson & Johnson Vision’s commitment to healthy vision, Sight for Kids has reached more than 2 million children per year, and recently surpassed 30 million children total in its near 18-year partnership. Johnson & Johnson Vision’s support, both in charitable grants, as well as employee leadership and engagement, have helped local Lions put the necessary resources and expertise in place to create healthier communities that give kids a better chance at success.

Key Sight for Kids Impact since 2001

• 30 million children provided with eye health education and vision screening in 10 countries

• 170,000 teachers trained in the importance of eye health

• 600,000+ children treated through no-cost eyeglasses and other critical vision treatment

• US$4.5 million provided by Johnson & Johnson Vision

A Sight for Kids volunteer screens the vision of a young boy in Thailand.

Future Endeavors

So what is next after serving 30 million children in 18 years? Together, LCIF and Johnson & Johnson Vision aspire to double the number of children treated, surpassing 1 million treated globally, through Sight for Kids by 2021.