Thanks to international nonprofit Sightsavers, eye exams are now being offered to Ugandans over 65 when they come to collect their pensions. Access is always a difficult issue when it comes to the work that nonprofits do, especially when it involves international organizations. It’s difficult enough to raise money and create models of service that adequately address unique cultural challenges, but sometimes the real challenge is dispensing those services to the people that need them.
In partnership with the Ugandan government’s Expanding Social Protection program, as well as other development partners, Sightsavers is developing points of service in locations that naturally attract their target populations. By providing eye exams (and subsequent referrals for treatment) alongside pension disbursement, this coalition of initiatives will dramatically increase access to their programs.
The Expanding Social Protection program is part of a long-range effort to alleviate age-related poverty in Uganda. At its most basic, the program provides Ugandans over 65 years of age with a pension. Even on its own, this appears to be an effective measure. But in partnership with Sightsavers, the government would like to address specific issues related to the intersection of age and disability. The power of the pension to affect quality of life cannot be distributed evenly upon the target population when issues like disability severely impact an individual’s ability to effectively employ financial assistance to his or her benefit.
For the Ugandan government, this partnership with Sightsavers helps to address the intersections of disability, age, and poverty. For Sightsavers, this partnership is a unique opportunity to serve the organization’s main goal: to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote the rights of people with disabilities. Not only will the nonprofit’s services become more accessible, but they will also be able to target the segment of the Ugandan population most vulnerable to vision impairment and its consequences.
Sightsavers was founded in 1950 as the British Empire Society for the Blind by Sir John Wilson, an Oxford-educated lawyer who was blinded as a child. Within a year, the organization was operating in six countries. Since its inception, Sightsavers has fought for the rights of people with disabilities internationally. This latest initiative is a stirring example of the changes they’ve made in our world, and it also presents an object lesson in the power of synergy between nonprofits and government initiatives.