A who’s who of Hawai`i charitable foundations, elected leaders, educational and vision advocates are coming together to expand a pilot program providing students free vision services at schools throughout the state.
Since 2015, nonprofits Project Vision Hawai`i and Vision To Learn have partnered to identify and help kids who lack the glasses they need at school. The joint pilot program uses mobile vision clinics that travel to school sites to provide free vision screenings to all students, followed by eye exams and glasses to students who need them. To date, the collaboration has provided 48,000 vision screenings, 2,000 eye exams and 1,200 glasses to students in low-income areas on O`ahu, Maui, Hawai`i Island and Kaua`i.
Today, the partnership celebrated a major expansion that will bring access to basic vision care to thousands more students annually. Through the addition of a new full-time mobile clinic, an expanded collaboration with the Hawai`i Department of Education, and a coalition of funders, the program will vision screen 20,000 students, provide 3,000 eye exams and 2,400 pairs of glasses in the coming year. Kamehameha School is leading this effort to serve the children of Hawaii.
“Any students unable to do their best simply because no one knows that they need glasses is not OK,” said Annie Valentin, CEO of Project Vision Hawai`i. “We are committed to improving access to eye care for children who might not know they need or have access to a simple pair of glasses”
“Vision To Learn is delighted to give Hawai`i children the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life,” said Vision To Learn President Ann Hollister.
Jack Wong, CEO of Kamehameha Schools, Lauren Nahme, Vice President of Kamehameha School and Kenton T. Eldridge, Hawaii Advisory Board Chair for Vision to Learn, participated in the launch event at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School, where 51 students tried on their new glasses for the first time. Over the past month, 484 WEIS students were screened and 108 (22%) were found to have a potential vision problem, but did not have glasses. 57 students received eye exams, and 51 were prescribed glasses.
“Hawai`i students need to come to school with the tools they need to learn. For keiki who have vision problems, that means a pair of glasses,” said Lauren Nahme. “This program will help thousands of students see the board.” It is estimated that 18,000 Hawai`i keiki lack the glasses they need at school.
This program expansion is supported by an impressive coalition of foundations, including Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Atherton Foundation, First Hawaiian Bank Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, Matson, and Freeman Foundation. Kamehameha Schools is taking the lead in this state wide effort. The City and County of Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii also support the program.