Lately, we’ve been sharing a lot about our U.S. Sight Giving Partner, Helen Keller International and its domestic ChildSight® program , which provides free in-school vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses for children living in urban and rural poverty. We sat down with Tonya Daniels, HKI’s ChildSight® New York Program Manager to learn more about her role in the program and how their partnership with TOMS is helping “bring education into focus” for tens of thousands of kids in need each year.
What makes the HKI’s ChildSight® program unique?
Tonya: We are unique because we work within a school program, which means we provide vision-screening services in the school. By providing this in the school, it helps remove any barriers parents may face in getting their child to the eye doctor for care. Our program brings the optometrist to the children; parents and guardians don’t have to worry about taking off from work to bring their child to the eye doctor.
How do prescription glasses affect a student’s school performance?
Tonya: We receive feedback from the teachers almost immediately — from the day they put their glasses on, the students are participating more and they are excited about their classes again. When a question is asked in class, the child can actually raise their hand and answer the question and feel important because they are contributing to the learning environment. Their test scores go up. Academically and personally, we see that the students are doing much better.
What impact do you see prescription glasses have on the child outside of school?
Tonya: When children receive the proper prescription glasses, their behavior also changes for the better. Their self esteem has risen in the classroom, so outside the classroom they are holding their head up higher and walking with more confidence. Misbehaving and even skipping school can sometimes be attributed to not being able to see well. It’s difficult to be a productive student when you can’t see lessons on the board in read a text book. These are the students that we target through our services. Once these students receive new prescription glasses from us, their behavior changes for the better almost immediately.
Why is it so important to offer a cool selection of frames for kids?
Tonya: If the glasses aren’t fashionable to the students, they aren’t going to want to wear them. We work really hard to make sure that we provide a variety of frames. We take part in a conference every year in New York where we are able to get an idea of what styles are up-and-coming for the season. We provide a whole array of frames that the student gets to choose from themselves. By making this choice on their own, they are more apt to wear the glasses.
What is it about working at Helen Keller International that you are most proud of
Tonya: I’m most proud when I see a child’s life improve almost immediately. Prescription glasses are tools that make a difference right away. When I’m in the schools dispensing eyeglasses and the students put their new glasses on for the first time and their reaction is, “Oh my gosh! Wow! I can see, I can read the board!” Knowing that I had a hand in helping that child see better, it makes me so proud, it feels really good.