Meet our visionaries
It's back-to-school season, and millions of low-income kids in the United States will start classes without the glasses they need. What does that mean? It means they will face a huge barrier to reading and learning and shoulder a needless burden to their self-esteem and confidence.
But low-income kids are not the only vulnerable people in the U.S. who urgently need vision care and properly prescribed glasses.
This is why Helen Keller International is expanding its 25-year-old ChildSight program to address the huge need for eye health services among:
- runaway homeless youth
- underserved veterans
- newly arrived immigrants and refugees, and
- low-income seniors and homeless families.
HKI has launched new vision services—reaching beyond kids in schools—to benefit the most vulnerable people in the nation’s poorest urban communities.
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Ezekiel is eight years old. He lives with his mother in a shelter for homeless families in Brooklyn. HKI has started partnering with a variety of organizations in order to provide vision care services to vulnerable children.
"I was wearing my glasses so much that when I was taking them off, one side broke. That was in January. So, I don’t wear them now. I could see with my glasses on, but I can’t see without my glasses, and I’m not able to read. I can’t even do my homework without my glasses.
I feel happy to get new glasses today. I’m looking forward to reading, and to doing my homework, and to focusing. I wanted those blue ones, but they were too big, and I picked the camouflage one, and it was too big. But then, finally, I found a pair of glasses that was not too big, not too little, it was just right. They look awesome, cool, and amazing. Maybe I look smart.
I feel kinda nervous about going back to school. I might get the questions wrong. I’m starting a new school. The glasses make me look cooler. I’m excited."
Martha Moses is Assistant Coordinator for HKI’s ChildSight program in New York City. She has been an important part of our life-changing work for 18 years.
“I think the ‘helping field’ is more or less my calling. I can be on the street, and it seems like anyone who needs help gravitates towards me.
We serve areas of New York that are overlooked. I actually grew up in this area. These people are trying to make it, like you and me. They are low-income and need a lot of services, but they have to fight for every little one. Normally, we serve middle-school students in schools. We started reaching out to homeless shelters last year. For some people, it’s a struggle to get to the eye doctor. It’s a relief when we come to them; it’s one less thing they have to worry about.
When you don’t have a lot of money and you go to the optical shop, you have a really small selection of frames. With HKI, that’s not the case. We have partnerships with companies that provide frames, and I choose about 80 to 100 of them to offer to clients. I look at how people are dressed around me, and I look in magazines. That’s how I figure out what’s in and what’s out.
Five years ago, Ibrahim and his family were vetted and granted admission into the United States as resettled refugees from Iraq. Ibrahim loves to build and fix things, and he has dreams of becoming a doctor. HKI’s ChildSight team visited Ibrahim’s public school in New Haven, Connecticut last year, where they gave him a vision screening and a new pair of properly prescribed eyeglasses.
“The blackboard used to look good, but it started to get blurry. Now when I go to class, I can’t copy the whole paragraph.
I love going to school so I can have a good education. I learned English from my teacher. Sometimes I help translate for my parents.
My new glasses will help me do my schoolwork. I want to be a doctor because I want to make the injuries go away and help people.”