What is Escolhares?
Escolhares’ goal is to provide eye care to children that don’t have access to ophthalmology services. We bring trained medical students, ophthalmologists and mobile clinics to elementary public schools of Rio. We offer free vision screenings and eye exams to all the students, inside the schools. All prescribed eyeglasses are given to the kids, and any further treatment necessary is covered. We return to the schools every 2 years, for follow-up.
How did it begin?
It started in 2015 as a bachelors’ thesis of Brazilian medical students. When screening 200 kids in a small elementary school, more than 15% had uncorrected eyesight problems. In 2016, Katia Steinfeld moved to Switzerland to continue her studies, and thanks to the support of the University of Lausanne, created Escolhares.
How would you describe its impact?
Since the NGO was created, in 2017, 2’500 kids have been screened. Of these, 600 showed subnormal vision. Almost 300 pairs of eyeglasses were donated, including correction for high ametropias. We’ve provided external consults and treatment to 15 kids with complex pathologies. We inform students, parents and teachers on how to take care of children’ eyesight. We’ve also trained more than 400 Swiss and Brazilian medical students to perform vision screenings for children.
How are volunteers involved?
Most of the volunteers are medical students in Switzerland and Brazil. In Switzerland, we have 10 committee members. They handle all the financial, administrative and research and development areas. In Brazil, 5 coordinators recruit volunteers and doctors and plan the actions with the schools. Before each action, the Brazilian coordinators train 70 medical and nursing students to perform vision screenings. These volunteers then go to the schools and screen the kids enrolled. Results are saved in our database, and we identify children needing further eye exams. In a second step, mobile clinics are set up in the schools and ophthalmologists provide the selected children with complete exams. During this step, the medical and nursing students set up the equipment, organize the waiting room, handle the data, etc… When the eyeglasses are ready, we organize an event for kids, teachers and parents at the schools. It’s an opportunity to inform about children’ eyesight. Once a year, 10 Swiss medical students travel to Rio to join our Brazilian volunteers on the field. The result of our hard work is a pair of eyeglasses and the smile of the child putting them on for the first time
What are Escolhares’ future plans?
We’d like to generate data about the children’s vision and publish it. By exchanging knowledge between the academic environment and elementary schools, we can design more efficient solutions. We’d also like to better understand the impact of our project. How does ophthalmological health evolve in 2 years? What are people learning about eye care through our project? How does receiving glasses improve development? We’ll collect the data from 2020 on while providing eye care to 3’000 kids in 5 public schools of Rio.
Interested? Contact us at [email protected]!