WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – Studies show in low-income communities, 95% of kids who need glasses don’t have them.
When a child can’t see, they may struggle in school, get headaches or avoid reading.
But one non-profit organization is trying to change that.
‘Vision to Learn’ was founded in Los Angeles in 2012 with the goal of giving children the glasses they need to be successful in school and in life.
In 2016, Vision to Learn launched a program in Dubuque, Iowa. Since then, they’ve served 13 counties across the state, providing 5,400 free eye exams and 4,300 prescribed glasses to school-age children.
The program outfitted a van that doubles as an eye clinic. It travels to different school districts and organizations in Iowa. Kids sit in the van and get screened by a licensed optometrist. If they need glasses, they’re able to choose a style. The glasses are ready in about two weeks. Everything is free.
“Students are really excited. They’re excited because for the first time, they’re able to see once they receive their glasses. We’re also hearing from teachers and administration that it’s affecting behavior. We’re seeing less office referral visits within the school setting,” Corrine Kroger, the regional director for the program said.
Last Friday, the van visited Peoples Clinic in Waterloo, serving more than 20 children.
Dr. Kim Neumann, a pediatrician at the clinic, said some families don’t have vision insurance. Others aren’t from the United States. Eye care isn’t always accessible.
“Some of these children have been going to school unable to see well for a year or more since we identified that they had a vision problem, and so to get them in glasses at the start of the school year, really puts them in a better position to succeed in school,” Dr. Neumann said.
Kroger said Vision to Learn aims to remove barriers for kids and their families.
“It’s removing that barrier around cost, especially at the beginning of the school year when school supplies and all these other things are adding up, a family is able to have their child participate, they receive a pair of glasses through the program and an exam at no cost,” Kroger said.
This year, Vision to Learn estimates they’ll help more than 3,000 students across the state. They are expanding their services to students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade in the Waterloo Community School District. They predict they’ll help more than 650 students in Waterloo alone.
If you think your school or organization could use a visit from Vision to Learn, or if you’re interested in supporting the program, contact Corrine Kroger at 563-213-8698, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.