OGS has begun its funding season as the organization looks ahead to wrapping up 2023 and kicking off 2024.
Lois Schoenbrun, Executive Director of Optometry Giving Sight (OGS), caught up with Optometry Times®' assistant managing editor Emily Kaiser Maharjan to give an overview of what OGS is up to during Vision Expo West, as well as the 2023 American Academy of Optometry annual meeting.
Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emily Kaiser Maharjan:
Hi everyone. I'm Emily Kaiser Maharjan with Optometry Times, and I'm sitting down with Lois Schoenbrun, who's executive director of Optometry Giving Sight. Welcome, Lois.
Thank you, Emily. I'm very happy to be here.
Of course. So first, can you tell us why Optometry's charity is so important to the community.
Optometry Giving Sight (OGS) was founded 20 years ago by individuals from the World Council of Optometry, from the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness, and what was then Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI)—specifically Brien himself, who came together knowing that the community—that we, the world—needed an organization that could fund the development of optometry around the world in order to address the debilitating problem of blindness due to uncorrected refractive error.
So 20 years ago we were founded, and our mission is to develop optometry—and we fund building optometry schools and training eye care professionals, so we can build sustainable solutions to bring universal eye care and vision care around the world.
A fantastic mission. Very important. Can you fill us in all Optometry Giving Sight has been up to lately and how it's evolved?
So for a long time, we were very closely aligned with BHVI—they were a primary implementing partner, we still work with them some but we now work with many organizations around the world. And in fact, we are just starting our new funding cycle.
We are funding 20 organizations who are working in more than 20 countries to, in some cases, build optometry schools and vision centers; in some cases to train more eye care professionals. Sometimes we're providing equipment, sometimes we're providing a bus to get people to remote communities. It's very exciting work and essential.
There are more than a billion people in the world who are blind because they need eye exams, glasses. And mission trips are important and they're great, but they're not sustainable. What happens when those glasses break or they're lost? New people in the community? So we hope to train people who will then stay in their communities to provide care.
Yeah and that's absolutely essential to bake it into the communities. So I also hear that you have some fun plans for Vision Expo West. Can you fill us in?
We do. So there will be a couple of staff there, and board members. And we will be meeting with doctors and with companies to encourage their support—get them to donate to us. We are especially talking with small and mid-sized companies because we would like to become their their charity of choice. And, if you will, their corporate social responsibility in a box—let us do it for them.
People care that the companies they do business with give back to the community and we can help them do that. In addition to that, we will be partying Friday night with ODs on Facebook—we are their charity of choice. And we'll be having some fun with them at that party and [will] have some fun ways for people there to donate. So we hope to see everybody there.
Of course, that's also very essential and so much fun and all that good stuff. World Sight Day 2023 is October 12, which happens to fall during Academy. Can you give us a little bit of a preview of what Optometry Giving Sight is planning to celebrate?
So this is our this is OGS's 16th year of our Optometry Giving Sight Challenge. We spend much of September and October raising funds—this is our biggest fundraiser of the year.
We are lucky that we'll be at Academy on World Sight Day. Come to our booth—we're gonna have some games and ways that attendees can spend our board members' money because we have board members matching contributions.
That sounds so great. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today, Lois, and I can't wait to see you and the Optometry Giving Sight team at Vision Expo West and Academy. It's going to be so much fun.
Thank you for your time.