Growing up with glasses over my pupils since age two, it’s always been second nature to toss them on after making the reach to shut off the alarm. This brief encounter with impaired vision is something many, including myself, take deeply for granted.

While most of us living in high income countries escape the consequences of our genetically poor eyesight with prescription glasses, those in the developing world are not so fortunate.

According to the World Bank, an estimated 10% of all primary school children in developing countries have problems with their vision. Yet, according to Stanford’s Rural Education Action Program (REAP), vision problems are largely treatable. In fact, 97% of youth eyesight problems are induced by refraction errors, which correction can easily fix by fitting them with proper glasses.

Unfortunately, many children in low income countries live with these refraction issues and don’t have access to vision correcting glasses. The highest percentage of vision impaired children is in urban and rural Southern China, with up to 30% of children without glasses.

Enter Sight Learning. The organization, run by 17-year-old Yash Gupta, collects donated glasses in the United States and distributes them, accordingly, throughout the world. Starting in 2011, Sight Learning, donated 9,500 pairs of glasses to students in Haiti, Honduras, India and Mexico.

Sight Learning’s mission aims to improve the lives of students by providing eyeglasses and eye exams around the world, in order to help them perform better in school. As well pronounced studies have proven, better education leads to higher incomes. Instead of condemning 10% of children, and eventually  adults, to an illiterate life and a reduced standard of living, we can provide our expendable glasses to transform negative circumstances into one of visionary and educational success.

Gupta, recently named one of “CNN’s Heroes,” collects the glasses within his own home. Sight Learning collaborates with New Eyes for the Needy, a non-profit that has provided glasses to over 7.9 million people.

So, how can you help give the gift of sight? You can lead an eyeglasses drive in school to increase your numbers of unwanted glasses. You can go out to your local optometrist and see if they can donate extra pairs. And if these seem a bit extreme, but you still want to contribute in your own way, just rummage around your house and ask your family if they have any extra glasses that are no longer needed. You’ll be surprised with how many you find, and how many students’ lives you will dramatically improve.

– Michael Carney

Sources: CNNVolunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, Standford University
Photo: Deviant Art