Seeing Northern Uganda

Over the last few months, Kingdom Pearl has noticed something in Rackoko and Northern Uganda… People here can’t see very well.

After discussing the issue with some local leaders and assessing the needs of the region, we decided that in order for people to succeed, they must first be able to see and that vision care must be a fundamental part of our development plans.

Planning began for a vision program and many great ideas were discussed. It quickly became clear however, that these ideas would take a long time to implement. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss big ideas or delay their implementation while waiting for perfection or completion. In some situations, perfection and completion are necessary, but in others, it’s fully reasonable and even beneficial to start with what you have. After further discussing the project, we decided to see what we could accomplish in one month, while still working towards our long-term goals.

We sent e-mails to several eye health companies, and were amazed by their willingness and desire to work with us in some capacity or another. Some are working to send product donations and others have connected us with contact people in the region. One company however, quickly sent 60 pairs of women’s reading glasses. This company is Scojo New York and they provided Kingdom Pearl with our first official eyewear donation.kp_optics_readers-01

The generous donation arrived and we put together a program to distribute them. It was decided that the target demographic should be women with HIV/AIDS. The tricky part was trying to figure out how many people to invite for the 60 pairs of reading glasses. It wouldn’t work well to simply invite 60 people and assume there would be a fit for everyone, but it also wouldn’t be good to have 300 people show up and get excited, only to go home empty handed. To coordinate this, we met with the local leaders again and asked for their help. They agreed and would prove to be a critical component in this project’s execution.

Then came the question: How do we explain that reading glasses aren’t normal glasses and that they won’t fix all eye problems? After considering it, the idea arose to create a simple flyer to distribute with each pair, clearly stating what the reading glasses will and will not do. We designed something which used icons and text to communicate across language barriers. It was also decided that since many people probably haven’t owned eye-wear before, it would be useful to include a brief section demonstrating how to clean them.

The day of the distribution arrived and things went very smoothly. Again, the local leaders were a wonderful help in translation and coordination. During the distribution it became clear that there were some men in the community who would greatly benefit from receiving reading glasses as well. We decided to offer several of the more gender-neutral pairs to a few men in the community, adapting our initial goal of distributing only to women.

Within three hours, we had distributed all 60 pairs of reading glasses, and only had to turn away 3 people for whom we weren’t able to find the proper strength. It was a tremendously successful start to our vision project and we are excited to share the video below.

It will take time to integrate a full, regional vision program into our organization, it requires facilities, staff, and equipment, but we aren’t waiting for perfection to get started.  For now we are working with what we can, with an ad-hoc network of product donors, local doctors and anything else we can find, to help as many people in Northern Uganda see as clearly as possible. Who knows, we may even find that this lightweight approach works best.


Reading Glasses Distribution from Kingdom Pearl on Vimeo.