Restoring Vision Expands Its Reach Through Fulbright Scholars

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.—A new pilot social innovation partnering RestoringVision and Fulbright alumni will mean that thousands of people living in developing countries will receive the gift of better sight through new reading glasses.

The partnership came out of a recent contest held by the Fulbright Association to find projects that would incorporate their values with a social component. Out of more than 60 submissions, “Envision the World”—a partnership of Fulbright Alumnus and National Board Member Erwin Cho and RestoringVision, was one of two winners at the TEDxFulbright conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month where it received the “Fulbright Innovative Spirit Award.”  The project raised $8,000 through crowd funding on Rocket Hub in just three weeks—the most of any other project. The money will be used to launch pilot programs in up to four countries around the world.

Cho and RestoringVision proposed that Fulbright alumni provide a distribution network for reading glasses. They suggested that alumni within the United States would coordinate the distribution to Fulbright alumni in developing countries who would identify local NGOs or government agencies to dispense the glasses.

“These pilot programs are just the beginning. Our goal is to expand this to many chapters and many countries,” said Mark Sachs, founder of RestoringVision.

The Fulbright Association consists of 325,000 former and current students representing over 150 countries around the world. “I was convinced that with a little creativity the the international Fulbright alumni network could be leveraged for a global good,” said Cho. “When Mark Sachs of RestoringVision told me he wanted to find a way to distribute more glasses, it just seemed like a perfect fit. People were very enthusiastic about the project and we made a lot of great connections at the TedxFulbright conference.”

Since 2003, RestoringVision has distributed more than 2 million pairs of new reading and sunglasses to groups going to developing countries. “I’m very excited to be working with the Fulbright Association,”said Sachs. “They have great connections in governments, universities, and NGOs worldwide and they understand the need for international cooperation which this program embodies.”