There are many obstacles to obtaining basic eye care in Guatemala.
To obtain glasses in the United States, the diagnosis and cost of glasses cost anywhere from $200-300 on average. In Guatemala, where 56% of the population lives below the poverty line, the prices aren’t much lower.
In the region of San Pedro La Laguna, where we are working, most residents travel to Guatemala City to receive eye care. When one adds the cost of glasses, diagnosis, transportation, lodging, food, and loss of income from missing work, the costs of the eye care amounts to roughly $180 (1,422 Guatemalan Quetzals). Therefore, it costs 55.7 days to afford glasses for someone traveling from San Pedro to Guatemala City.
Some residents of San Pedro La Laguna are lucky enough to find eye care closer to home. In this case, basic eye care costs about $130 (1,027 Guatemalan Quetzals). In this scenario, it will cost 37.1 days of work for the average Guatemalan to afford glasses.
There are major economic barriers to receiving eye care, particularly for those in rural Guatemala. Our business model is looking to supply eye care to a population whose needs are not currently met.
Where will our equipment and supplies come from?
This is a question we are currently exploring. We’ve specially designed our equipment in a way that enables it to be made from supplies that are available in local Guatemala.
We’re still exploring how to supply the business with lenses and frames. The first tactic is to import frames and lens blanks from an international supplier. Our goal would be to go directly to the supplier in order to cut out costs incurred my middlemen, ultimately reducing the prices we can offer to customers. With this method, we can rely on the consistent delivery of materials.
The second option is to take used lenses to import from Lions Clubs in the U.S. to the business in Guatemala. Clubs or Districts will sign on to sponsor a particular village, depending on the number of pairs of glasses collected by each club. Incidental supplies may have to be sourced from elsewhere, but suppliers would be sought within Guatemala or within Central America if at all possible. Local labor will conduct eye exams, re-cut used lenses, fit lenses to frames, fit frames to patients, and do repair work.
Who will control the business?
Our goal for the business is to create something that is sustainable and provides long term benefits to developing communities. In order to accomplish this mission, we will form partnerships with local entrepreneurs who will eventually run the business on their own. Learn more about our focus on sustainability.
Who are our customers?
In August 2011, we conducted 87 eye exams on children in a local school and identified 9 (10%) that had significant and correctable distance vision impairments; another 11 would have benefited somewhat from corrected vision. We also conducted 27 eye exams on adults and identified 7 (26%) that had significant and correctable distance vision impairments. With 6,000 people in San Pedro and 50,000 in the Lake Atitlan area (of which about 60% are children), these statistics would indicate that at least 300 children and about 500 adults in San Pedro are in need of corrected vision, as are at least 3,000 children and about 5,000 adults in the Lake Atitlan area at large. These statistics were supported by eye examinations during subsequent trips.
After the creation of initial business in San Pedro La Laguna, we are looking to create a network of similar organizations in rural Guatemala. Subsequently, we’ll be looking to other regions of the world.