Stakeholders from tea industry and eyecare sector have expressed their support and appreciation for VisionSpring’s Clear Vision initiative, which involves eye screening and providing glasses to tea pickers.
The organisation held two meetings in Assam and Kolkata which saw unequivocal support by representatives from tea and eyecare sector.
Assam labour and tea tribes minister Sanjay Kishan assured of all support to VisionSpring for screening all the garden workers in Assam. The minister will soon call for another meeting to get a better understanding of the current work we are doing and the future plans so he can extend help accordingly.
VisionSpring launched ‘Livelihoods in Focus’ in January this year in Guwahati, Assam in January this year in presence of Dr. Jordan Kassalow, who founded the mission. The program was launched with
a commitment of providing eyeglasses to artisans and microentrepreneurs in the region over the next five years.
The campaign has the potential to unlock $13.5 million in income-earning potential in 2023 for tea garden workers, artisans, and micro-entrepreneurs.
The first meeting in Assam was held on May 21 at Manohari Tea Resort in Dibrugarh. The other two meetings were held at Chota Tingrai tea estate in Tinsukia on May 23 and at Tocklai Tea Research Institute in Jorhat on 25th May.
Dr. S Babu, the director of the Tea Research Association in Jorhat, described VisionSpring’s initiative as “fantastic,” while acknowledging that there is still progress to be made.
VisionSpring has conducted 68,000 eye screenings in Assam tea gardens and distributed 40,000 eyeglasses to tea pickers. Overall, VisionSpring has corrected the vision of more than 5.5 million individuals across various sectors in the country.
The event in Assam discussed about the progress made by the organisation in providing eyeglasses to tea pickers, on the quality of our Made in India, and CE and ISO certified eyeglass.
Nirbhay Singh, the Program Manager of the Ethical Tea Partnership in Assam, expressed a keen interest in collaborating with VisionSpring on the eye care initiative.
Tasdiq Ghaznavi, a senior official in Solidaridad, viewed the program as a great opportunity for the tea industry to collaborate with other stakeholders and provide robust eye care support to tea pickers.
During the meetings, several speakers emphasized the importance of eye screening for school-going children.
Sajjan Harlalka from the K K Saharia Lions Eye Hospital in Dibrugarh highlighted that poor vision is causing children to drop out of school.
He advocated for providing free eyeglasses to children, aligning with VisionSpring’s See to Learn Program. Vision problems in children can manifest as behavioural or developmental issues, leading to frustration, inattentiveness, or disruptive behaviour.
Sandipan Bhattacharya from the Rainforest Alliance emphasized the need to extend eye screening benefits to small tea growers, who now account for more than half of India’s tea production. The Rainforest Alliance is a certification program that supports farmers in creating profitable and sustainable businesses while respecting workers and the environment. Bhattacharya also suggested utilizing existing health infrastructure facilities for eye camps.
In North Bengal, VisionSpring is collaborating with the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers to include small tea growers in eye screening programs.
Garden managers from Mokalbarie expressed their appreciation for the program’s benefits but recommended holding eye camps according to the tea pickers’ work schedules. They also suggested having local individuals at the eye camps to overcome language barriers.
VisionSpring held a major event at Tollygunge Club, Kolkata on June 10 on ‘Clear Vision Tea Gardens: Building Collaborative Action’.
This event focused on how clear vision through eyeglasses can lead to tremendous benefits with respect to productivity and earnings for tea garden workers. The meet discussed the ways to make India into a clear vision nation. The event was attended by senior leaders from the tea sector, government, corporates, NGOs, social entrepreneurships, family foundations, and eye hospitals.