How far did you travel for your glasses?

Rosi Jack.
Author:Rosi Jack
Posted on: Thursday, 4th April, 2019

A few weeks ago, my 8 year-old daughter needed glasses. No surprise there, given that I’ve worn glasses or contact lenses since about her age. A Saturday morning trip to town, a session trying on frames and a fortnight later she was proudly showing off her new purple glasses in the playground.

So when I met 10 year-old Japhet just a few days later, I was struck by the contrast.  I was visiting CBM’s partner eye hospital in Rwanda. Japhet was there with his dad, Alexandre; like Megan, he needed new glasses. But no quick visit to the optician for them: for Japhet, replacement glasses meant a 5 hour trip from his home in Eastern Rwanda to our partner Kabgayi Eye Unit. It meant three days out of school for him and four days off work for his father - two days travelling, one at the hospital. 

It’s easy for us to take glasses for granted. But if you’re one of the 70% or so in the UK to wear glasses or contact lenses, take a moment to imagine what your life would be like without them.

For Japhet, life without glasses meant struggling at school because he couldn’t see the blackboard. It meant missing out on games of football because he couldn’t see the ball. And a constant danger from cars on his way home from school, as he couldn’t see them coming when crossing the road.    

A shortage of trained eye health workers and equipment means that most people in countries like Rwanda have to travel for hours to get a pair of glasses…or in many cases they simply go without. 

And with big classes – commonly 40-50 children– and little or no training for teachers in how to support children who struggle to see, that quickly means kids falling behind, even dropping out of school altogether. All because of lack of access to a pair of glasses, costing around £30.

Our See the Way appeal aims to tackle this problem by training and equipping eye health workers in District Hospitals around Rwanda so people can get glasses without having to travel across the country. It’s not quite an optician on every high street, but it will be a big improvement.

And next time Megan and I walk to the optician, I will think of Japhet and Alexandre and their three-day trip for new glasses, and appreciate how fortunate we are to live somewhere where eye health services are readily available.  

UK Aid Match logoEvery day, people in the world’s poorest places become needlessly blind because of conditions that can be easily treated. Your gift today will help people with sight problems See the Way to a brighter future. Until 14th May 2019, the UK government will double all public donations to our See the Way appeal up to £2 million. Public donations will support CBM’s work preventing blindness and transforming lives wherever the need is greatest. Match funding from the UK government will improve access to sight-saving eye-health services in Rwanda.

Find out more or donate at


Rosi and daughter Megan.


Rosi Jack is Head of Communications at CBM UK. She recently visited CBM's partner hospital, Kabgayi Eye Unit, in Rwanda to meet people with vision problems and see how our See the Way appeal will transform lives.


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