The Trust House Foundation is getting behind a charity focusing on providing free prescription glasses to school kids who need them.
Wellington-based online glasses store Mr Foureyes, which donates a pair of glasses for every pair they sell, also operates a charity that treats children with eyesight problems.
The Foureyes Foundation – founded by Wellington-based optometrist Ravi Dass and wife Stephanie Hill – run a fortnightly clinic in Wairarapa screening and testing primary school children, and then if required, fitting them with prescription glasses for free.
Mr Dass says from his own experiences as an optician a lot of eye sight problems in children can go undetected.
“Helping identify a child who needs glasses and providing the glasses for free can make a big difference in a child’s life,” Mr Dass says.
Following on from a 2016 pilot programme at Titahi Bay School in Wellington, Mr Dass brought it to Wairarapa 15 months ago.
Starting at Masterton Primary School, by the end of the year it had been rolled out across four schools with over 1200 children screened. The Foureyes Foundation is on track to have all primary schools in the district on board by the end 2018.
Also helping to make the programme possible in Wairarapa is the Masterton/Holdsworth Lions. Club secretary Glenys Hansen was providing reading support to students at Masterton Primary School when Mr Dass started running his clinics.
“Sight is a global project of Lions, so we were really excited about becoming involved,” Mrs Hansen recalls. She now leads a pack of Lions’ club members taking charge of much of the screening programme.
Around 15 per cent of children screened need to have a follow up [eye test] with an optometrist, Mrs Hansen says. The eye test will then determine if they require glasses. Also important is on-going monitoring of some children.
“Kids eyesight can change rapidly, so it doesn’t end when we hand over a pair of glasses. It’s also important to be able to monitor and demonstrate the benefits that good eyesight can bring,” Mr Dass says.
A Trust House grant of $15,000 is helping to fund the eye testing part of the programme.
“We were initially charging for eye tests but that was creating a barrier, so with Trust House’s support we are now effectively reducing all of the barriers.”
Critical to being able to operate both the business and the charitable trust is being able to keep overheads down. They do this by running Mr Foureyes out of a garage in Hataitai, which they converted into an office and workshop. They sell glasses and prescription lens both online and offline.
When a person buys a pair glasses from Mr Foureyes, the business allocates another pair to the Foureyes Foundation.
“It feels good knowing that we can offer glasses that not only help people out, but help those in need, too.”
Mr Dass says he grew up in a socially-minded family. His mum spent a lot of time supporting a charity that helps girls back in Fiji get a good education. From a business perspective he is interested in social enterprise models and liked the idea of helping customers get affordable glasses and lenses, but making it more than just a business transaction.