ChildSight® Los Angeles, a US-based program of Helen Keller International, recently participated in the Feria Deja Huella (Leave Your Mark) education fair, sponsored by Univision LA and CommuniCard, LLC. More than 20,000 Spanish-speaking parents and their K-12 children – double the expected turnout – flocked to the campus of California State University-Dominguez Hills to take part in the free services provided by ChildSight® and over 75 other participants, which included area colleges, universities, nonprofits and scholarship groups.
ChildSight® Los Angeles’ 11-year history of “bringing education into focus™” for local youth meshes well with the premise of the Deja Huella Fair, which is part of a long-term campaign led by Univision to curb high school dropout rates and encourage higher education attainment among Hispanics. Without clear, healthy eyesight to see chalkboards, read textbooks and focus on classroom presentations, many at-risk students will miss the social and economic benefits afforded by a good education.
Helen Keller International’s innovative ChildSight® program addresses the unmet vision care needs of low-income schoolchildren, many of whom do not have access to basic health care. The program provides vision screenings, prescription eyeglasses, and ophthalmologic referrals (as needed) for underprivileged middle-school students – on-site and free of charge.
* During the school year, ChildSight® serves students in the Los Angeles, Hawthorne, Montebello, Long Beach, Lennox and Inglewood Unified School Districts, and in the summer, the program reaches children within the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles, Long Beach, Whittier, Watts, and Venice.
* As unemployment and health disparities continue to swell, ChildSight® has experienced a steady, and in many communities, increased, need for its services.
* The need for good vision care was crystallized at the Fair, where ChildSight® screened over 350 children in five hours – a rate of roughly one child every 50 seconds! Of those screened, 49 children showed signs of refractive error (more commonly known as near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism). Refractive error afflicts an average of 1 in 4 children between 10 to 15 years of age.
“[Our] booth was so busy; we screened nonstop, from 12 noon to 5 p.m.,” says Jorge Valdez, HKI’s ChildSight® Los Angeles Program Coordinator. “Many of the children’s parents were surprised and impressed that our services were free.”
After the Fair, those 49 children received a refraction assessment by the program optometrist at ChildSight®’s Los Angeles office. Within one week, they received their correctly prescribed eyeglasses from ChildSight®, free of charge. With clear vision, these children will have the necessary eye health they will need to focus in the classroom and to build their potential for future academic and vocational success.
ChildSight® is the domestic program of Helen Keller International (HKI). HKI established ChildSight® in New York City in 1994. The program currently serves children in seven U.S. states: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Texas. Since its inception, the program has “brought education into focus™” by screening over 1.2 million children in the U.S. and delivering over 150,000 pairs of free eyeglasses to children who need them.
Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International’s (HKI) mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health and nutrition. The organization is known for sustainability, reliability, efficiency, and the highest level of technical expertise in preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. HKI is headquartered in New York City, and has programs in 21 countries in Africa and Asia as well as in the United States, addressing malnutrition (including vitamin A deficiency), cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and refractive error. HKI receives support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and other national and local governments as well as from private and corporate foundations and individuals.