June 2023 – Studies suggest that by the year 2050, fully half of the world population will require corrective vision. Unfortunately, many millions lack access to prescription eyewear or the medical care required to diagnose their need.
Recent Edina High School graduate Abid Hasan knows more about these inequities than most.
“I was first informed and inspired by my parents, both of whom are eye doctors,” he said. “Through them, I have come to see the detriments that come from poor eyesight.” Indeed, blurred vision is more than a mere inconvenience. It influences everything from educational attainment, to job performance, and to overall wellbeing in myriad ways.
Furthermore, noted Hasan, this uneven access to opticians and eyeglasses is not restricted to developing countries. It’s a daily reality right here in Minnesota, where a coalition of schools and healthcare partners now maintain a standing Vision Health Task Force to help right the imbalance.
Hasan may not have the manpower or resources of a task force, but he resolved to make a difference – starting in his own backyard. “I founded a nonprofit, Vision For All, during the summer prior to my freshman year,” he shared. “Its mission is to provide equitable eyecare for all.”
As means to that worthy end, “I started by contacting local eye clinics. I wanted to identify the resources they [already] had available to patients in need … and [enlist] support for free eye clinics” in and around Edina. Hasan recalled that, as a young person leading an untested startup, it was initially difficult to forge the necessary connections. However, his gumption paid off. Vision For All hosted two free eye clinics that first year.
“Since then,” Hasan continued, “I have worked to grow my organization by adding glasses drives and an eye exam voucher system with the Edina schools.”
Collecting and redistributing eyeglasses has proven a logistical feat unto itself.
Vision For All solicits used frames through a variety of channels. In addition to eye clinics, Hasan has established relationships with local Rotary clubs. He estimates that between the Rotary Club of Edina, Edina Morningside Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Eagan, community members have contributed more than 1,000 pairs to his cause.
“Once these glasses are collected, I donate them locally to VOSH-MN,” Hasan explained. “VOSH stands for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, and VOSH-MN is part of this larger international organization that provides ... volunteer vision care to developing countries around the world.” That mission work includes cleaning frames and refitting them with prescription lenses.
Hasan also redistributes glasses through LRBT, a hospital and eyecare network serving the nation of Pakistan.
While it is thrilling to see gently used eyeglasses from the Twin Cities find new homes in places as far afield as Peru, Ghana and Pakistan, helping your own neighbors may be more fulfilling still.
Hasan points to Vision For All’s new partnership with Edina Public Schools as a prime example. “With our eye voucher program, I work with both school nurses … and doctors willing to provide free eye exams.” He reasoned that “nurses see students almost daily,” positioning them as intermediaries well suited to extend the voucher opportunity to families in need.
When not engrossed in the day-to-day work of Vision For All, Hasan stayed busy during the school year as class president for Edina Rotary Global Scholars, on the leadership team for Model UN and as lead peer tutor at the Edina High School Tutor Center.
Hasan intends to pursue college coursework in history and global health. That’s likely to take him out of state, but he expects to leave his nonprofit in good hands.
“My sister Zoya will be leading Vision For All once I am in college. She has been a great help to me so far, and I’m sure will continue and also improve on what I’ve done.”