Expanding our vision for ChildSight to new communities

An eye doctor uses a special ruler to measure a woman's eyes

In 1994, HKI’s ChildSight program first began providing vision screenings, eye exams and prescription glasses, at no-cost to students in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Since then, the program has grown well beyond its original geographic boundaries. ChildSight now not only serves kids in high-poverty urban neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, California, and Connecticut, but also provides services to adults experiencing homelessness, underserved veterans, low-income senior citizens, and new immigrants and refugees. 

Meghan Lynch, national director of HKI’s ChildSight program, says, “Since we piloted this vital program nearly 25 years ago, we’ve screened more than 1.95 million children and provided more than 300,000 pairs of glasses to those in need. Now, I am thrilled that we are working with a number of community partners to help ensure that crucial vision services can be accessed by a great number of runaway and homeless youth, as well as vulnerable and at-risk adults in multiple low-income communities in the United States.”  

We are proud to introduce you to Amal, Yasir, Nieda, Tareq, and a few other members of these underserved communities now benefitting from the expansion of our ChildSight program.  

New Haven, Connecticut

In June, HKI held its first eye clinic for new immigrants and refugees in partnership with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), a refugee resettlement agency in New Haven, Connecticut. There was such an overwhelming response from the community – more than 70 people signed up for 35 available walk-in appointments – that HKI and IRIS scheduled another clinic for August to accommodate the overflow. 

Amal was one of the first people in line for the clinic. Originally from Sudan, she has lived in the United States for five years. Amal’s eye exam determined that she is both nearsighted and farsighted, so she will receive one pair of glasses for reading and one for distance. 

A man uses a machine to take measurement's of a woman's eye

An HKI staff member measures Amal's eyes at the eye clinic in New Haven. 

Dr. Fredric Smilen fine-tuned Amal’s prescription for her eyeglasses by testing her ability to see text clearly at various lens strengths. When Dr. Smilen identified the appropriate respective prescriptions to help Amal read up close and see at a distance, she said, “I’m so glad. Now, I must go to university, and reading glasses [will] help me a lot to attend, to study, to read newspaper, everything. Even to see the television, because for [a] long time, I didn’t see anything.”

A woman reads text on a clipboard while wearing a phoropter

Amal reads while wearing a “phoropter” fitted with different lenses.

A boy wearing glasses smiles at the camera

Amal’s son, Ahmed, also picked out new glasses following his exam at the clinic. 

Yasir is originally from Iraq. He came to the clinic after experiencing increasingly blurry vision for more than a year. He said, “I was noting a difference in my eyesight, and my doctor said since I’m Type 1 diabetic, I should get my vision checked.” Eye diseases associated with diabetes can lead to vision loss and blindness. Dr. Smilen prescribed reading glasses for Yasir.

A man wearing a phoropter reads from text that an eye doctor points to

Yasir, a recent immigrant from Iraq, benefitted from a vision test at HKI’s eye clinic in June.

Nieda and Tareq are also from Iraq. They came to the United States four years ago, but it had been two years since they were able to have their vision tested and get their eyeglass prescriptions updated. Their eye exams indicated that they both needed stronger lenses. When we asked how she felt about her new glasses, Nieda had only one word: “Excited.” 

A woman and a man, both wearing glasses, smile at the camera

Husband and wife Nieda and Tareq both received new prescriptions for glasses at our recent eye clinic in New Haven.

Morris County, New Jersey

With the support of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the ChildSight program in New Jersey has embarked on an expansion of services to vulnerable populations in Morris County, including at-risk youth in juvenile detention and runaway homeless youth programs, as well as to residents of Homeless Solutions, LLC, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and other support services.

A woman looks at her reflection in a mirror

A woman wearing glasses smiles at the camera

HKI’s expanded ChildSight program in New Jersey is now benefitting residents of Homeless Solutions, a nonprofit shelter in Morris County.

Manhattan’s Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center

In July, senior citizens affiliated with the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, part of a public housing complex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, picked up prescription eyeglasses that they had chosen at an HKI-supported vision screening a few weeks earlier. 

The screening, the exam and the glasseslenses and frameswere provided by ChildSight free of charge, which Flora, one of the Stanley Isaacs senior center members, called “a godsend for seniors.”

Vera was already familiar with ChildSight because the program had given several of her children a vision screening (and provided two of them with free glasses) many years ago. She said, “I was surprised to see you in the senior center—but happy at the same time. I wear glasses, and I had not had my eyes checked since last year. My old glasses gave me a headache.” How does she feel about her new ones? “I love them. One, because they are the style I wanted. Two, I can actually see where my bifocal begins, and they fit well, they’re comfortable. No more headaches.”

In addition to offering different types of lenses to meet people’s specific vision needs, HKI is proud to offer a wide variety of stylish frames from which people can choose. We know that the more people like their glasses, the more they will wear them. 

A woman wearing a hat and glasses smiles at the camera

Flora loves her new glasses provided by HKI’s eye clinic for seniors in Manhattan.

A woman wearing glasses smiles at the camera

Vera says she no longer has headaches after getting her new glasses from the ChildSight program.

A woman with purple hair and purple glasses smiles at the camera

Darnette chose purple frames to match her purple hair. She said, “This is just what I need. Purple is my color.’” 

A man looks at the camera

Karl says he thinks his new glasses are “beautiful,” but not for aesthetic reasons. “Now,” he said simply, “I can see.”

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Photographs: 

Eye clinic at IRIS/New Haven, Connecticut: Ruth Fertig/HKI

Eye clinic at Homeless Solutions, LLC/Morris Country, New Jersey: Kindal Adams/HKI

Glasses distribution at Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center/Manhattan, New York: Ruth Fertig/HKI