Eye Care Initiative Brings Craft into Focus


"It's the biggest health crisis you've never heard of. Doctors, philanthropists and companies are trying to solve it."

— The New York Times

Creating exceptional handcrafts takes more than a creative mind and a set of steady, capable hands. An artisan must also be able to see their work, down to the tiniest detail. But what would happen if that artisan's vision began to fail?

It's all in the details for artisans who earn a living from their craft, like this embroiderer with our partner Craft Link in Vietnam.

For many of our artisans and farmers, the ability to see clearly can mean the difference between earning an income to support themselves and their family—or having no work at all. A 2018 New York Times article suggests that as many as 2.5 billion people globally need glasses, a problem that affects not only one's ability to drive and navigate the world safely, but to achieve one's full potential in work and school. And while not considered as urgent as other global health crises, untreated vision problems come with a price tag of nearly $200 billion annually in lost productivity for the the global economy.

Basket weavers who work with Serrv partner NAWOU in Uganda test their vision and try on glasses right in the workshop.

Beginning last year, Serrv's Artisan Development Coordinator, Kerry Evans, began reaching out to our artisan partners, asking if they would be interested in receiving glasses and eye exams at no cost to them. The response was a resounding YES. Working with the Wisconsin Lions Foundation's Eyeglass Recycling Center, just a few hours from our Madison, WI, office, Serrv was able to source eyeglasses donated by Americans from surrounding states.

Thanks to your donations, we're thrilled to report that in 2018 we delivered 1,250 pairs of "reader" glasses to seven artisan partner groups in five countries! In addition, more than 1,000 artisans in India, Cambodia, and Uganda have received free eye exams because of your financial support.

Asha Handicrafts provided eye exams to more than 400 artisans in four cities throughout India with funds from Serrv. Says one artisan, "I'm so glad for this! I wouldn't be able to afford to do all this on my own! Thank you!"

But we're just getting started. Based on strong interest from our partners, we hope to finance more eye exams and glasses—both "readers' and corrective—to artisans and farmers in need. With more support, we may even be able to provide funds for corrective surgeries to treat conditions like cataracts. The potential is great, with estimates of nearly 13,000 Serrv artisans, farmers, family members, and community members who could benefit from eye care and correction.

The smiles on the faces of these weavers in Vietnam say it all. Serrv partner Craft Link was quick to write us after artisans received their glasses: Thank you so much for bringing the sight back to our artisans!"

We'll continue to share updates on this exciting new program throughout the year. In the meantime, please help artisans in marginalized communities earn income through the work of their hands. Donations support not only this new eye care initiative, but also existing programs to pay wages up front, support artisan requests for training and tools, and provide funds for disaster relief.


Tags:   News   Fair Trade  

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