All her life, Jennifer Wanjiru, 16, struggled to make out the words on the blackboard at school. Even though she always sat at the front of the class, she’d find herself squinting. Completing even basic tasks — worksheets, pop quizzes — felt laboriously hard. “I always used to lag behind,” she says.
But that all changed a few months ago, when Jennifer’s school in Nairobi, Kenya, was visited by Sight for Kids (SFK), an innovative program that provides free vision care to low-income students across the globe.
The program, co-founded in 2002 by Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), has administered free, volunteer-directed vision screenings to more than 42 million children in five countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, India, Kenya and the United States. Today it’s the largest-known program of its kind in the world.
SFK expanded to Kenya in 2014, and since then the program has trained more than 1,000 teachers in and around the nation’s capital of Nairobi on how to identify students with eyesight problems and provide them with basic eye health and hygiene education.
The need, says SFK Kenya Project Chairperson Tanvi Shah, Head of Optometry Services and optometrist at the Lions SightFirst Eye Hospital, is acute: Visual impairment and blindness affect an estimated 1.5 million Kenyans, many of them children. One in five students SFK Kenya encounters requires eye drops and hygiene care to counteract the effects of dust and pollution, while one in 10 needs glasses.
Restoring a child’s eyesight can change their life. “It gives them confidence back,” Tanvi Shah says, “and makes them excited about learning again.”
Jennifer, who received glasses within a few days of her screening, can attest. Now, she’s able to race through exams. And she’s acing them, too. In her 50-person class, “I’m in the top 10,” she says proudly.
As SFK celebrates its 20th anniversary, we share how the organization is putting students like Jennifer on a path to a brighter future, one vision screening at a time.
Read more at jnj.com.