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VisionSpring Gets $15M

VisionSpring gets $15 million donation from MacKenzie Scott to help low-income workers around the world access eyecare.

VisionSpring was founded in 2001, “with the goal of reaching and providing affordable, quality glasses to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who need them,” according to their website.

According to founder Dr. Jordan Kassalow, he was inspired by a seven-year-old boy who was brought to him when he was doing volunteer medical care as a young man, in Yucatan. The boy’s family thought he was blind and always had been, but an eye exam, the first he’d ever been given, revealed he was instead extremely myopic. Without glasses, he couldn’t hold a page close enough to his face to read it. With strong lenses, he would have normal vision.

“As I provided the boy his sight, he provided me with a keen sense of purpose and novel understanding: the only thing standing between 2.5 billion people and their ability to get an education, earn a living, return home to their families safe and sound at night, and fulfill their human potential is a simple pair of glasses,” Kassalow wrote.

Scott’s $15 million, the largest private donation ever given to VisionSpring, is enough to get glasses for hundreds of thousands of people. The charity works mainly with low-income workers in agriculture and luxury fields in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

“The gift from Ms. Scott is an incredible acknowledgment of the power of a simple pair of eyeglasses to unlock earning, learning, safety and well-being for people vulnerable to poverty,” VisionSpring’s chief executive Ella Gudwin said.

Scott’s donation is made through Giving Pledge, the organization set up by Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the wealthiest Americans to give away their money to those who need it.

“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” Scott has said. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

Photo: Napoleonka / Shutterstock