All Across Africa partnered with Vision Spring in December of 2022 to bring eye care to all artisans by year end, 2023.
A partnership with Vision Spring was a natural fit for us, as they were looking to expand and reach more farmers and artisans with their recent $15 million gift from MacKenzie Scott. Her donation was aimed at targeting low-income workers to boost livelihood potential.
Throughout the years, All Across Africa has noticed the impact of eye care on artisan workers. Historically, we were bringing reading glasses from Costco in our suitcases and distributing them at our centers. However, that was not a viable long term solution, and a partnership with Vision Spring was the clear next step in making eye care accessible and sustainable for our artisans and their families.
Vision Spring is a global social enterprise dedicated to reducing poverty and creating opportunity in the world's poorest communities through access to eye care and the sale of affordable eyeglasses.
Eyeglasses are a powerful social and economic development tool. This enterprise has a mission of boosting livelihood initiatives that enhance earning potential for workers, artisans, and farmers by collaborating with employers, worker collectives, and government agencies.
All Across Africa (AAA) is a benefit corporation that employs more than 5,000 artisans from different parts of Rwanda to create beautiful handmade baskets and accessories, while improving the lives of the rural poor with economic opportunity. 60% of those artisans are above 35 years of age, making them prone to eyesight deficiencies and challenges.
Presbyopia is a common condition in middle-aged and older adults that happens because the lens of the eye stops focusing light correctly on the retina, making it difficult to see things up close. As a result, some women had stopped weaving because it was too challenging to fix a thread into a needle, which led to them to exclude themselves from weaving groups, and directly compromised their economic position. The good news is, although it can't be reversed, it is an easy condition to correct. The simplest of solutions is to wear reading glasses. Thus, All Across Africa partnered with Vision Spring to provide an opportunity for artisans to maintain their productivity and earn an income via affordable eyecare and eyewear availability.
To date, we are two months into our Vision Spring partnership with over 200 eyeglasses distributed so far, and the program continues to grow. A permanent All Across Africa team member is responsible for conducting the screenings and managing the storage and distribution of our eyeglass inventory to make sure our momentum continues!
All Across Africa’s program manager was trained by the Vision Spring team, and first conducts a vision screening on artisans to identify defects that can be solved with eyeglasses. After screening, eyeglasses are being provided according to the power identified during the near vision test.
Artisans with complex vision issues are being referred to an appropriate eye care professional who can perform further evaluation and treatment.
So far, the eye care program in Rwanda has made a way for artisans who had stopped weaving because of challenges related to presbyopia.
This program aligns with our vision of creating economic opportunities in the rural communities in which we operate, especially for women.
After receiving eye glasses, women who were once impacted by challenges with their vision are able to weave again, and therefore able to meet our stringent quality standards and increase productivity. This means they are able to sustain their income and provide for their families in a safe, consistent and respected way
Agnes Bazubagira is a 56-year-old widow with four children. As any mother, she always works to her best to meet the basic needs for her family.
She has been weaving for over thirty years, never having another means for earning a living wage. She has been weaving for All Across Africa for ten years.
Three years ago, her eyesight began to deteriorate and she was unable to see nearby objects in any detail. She fretted that she couldn’t read the bible, signposts or even the details on her Identification card. Of course, fixing a thread into a needle became a challenge for her, making her unable to earn a sustainable wage on her own. She stopped weaving.
Through All Across Africa’s eye care program, she received eyeglasses and has since resumed weaving sisal baskets. She has expressed gratitude for being able to once again complete intricate designs and meet our high quality standards.
“My income has improved because with eyeglasses, I am now able to work on any designs at top quality.”