Vision for a Nation, (VFAN) a UK-registered charity that supports national health ministries to build sustainable nationwide access to eye care and affordable glasses in low-income countries, is looking to scale its operations to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and is currently in early talks with a national government in Asia about launching the second Vision for a Nation initiative.
VFAN was founded by James Chen, who “dreamt of having the opportunity to do something that would change the world and then found this world-changing idea: adjustable glasses.” Since 2011, in Rwanda, the foundation has worked with the health ministry to successfully develop a three-day training course for nurses; train 1,500 nurses to offer vision assessments and dispense glasses through the network of health centres; and conduct more than 110,000 vision assessments, provide 15,000 glasses and refer an equal number for specialist treatment. VFAN’s aim is to provide glasses to an estimated 300,000-500,000 people and refer all people with more complex needs to hospital-level specialists. It is supporting Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to realise these objectives.
The foundation aims to achieve greater impact and scale by working on the principles of:
a) Government ownership: happy to let governments build their own primary eye care service
b) National scale: establishing a service that is universally accessible to everyone in Rwanda
c) Sustainability: primary eye care being set up as an integrated part of Rwanda’s healthcare system. It is institutionalised within the Ministry’s policies, planning, supply chain and service delivery. The revenue from affordable glasses is used to improve hospital-level eye care
d) Raising awareness: delivering an awareness campaign to promote eye health
e) Innovation: using cutting-edge technologies such as adjustable glasses that instantly change focus at the turn of a dial
f) Business principles: applying business principles enhances the programme’s efficiency and chances of success
Now VFAN plans to conduct subsequent national plans in other countries and support them to deliver nationwide access to primary eye care and affordable glasses. However, the interests of the national governments need to be aligned with that of the organisation in order for the programme to work. Further, “to be effective [in another country] there needs to be the political will as well as the infrastructure,” according to James. It is a something that governments in this part of the world ought to bear in mind.
James Chen is an AVPN member through his family office, Retail Solutions.