Eye-Care Is Secondary To Hunger: The Need For Education

Julie Colombino-Billingham of Rebuild Globally talks about the need for eye-care education.

Cara Moore: Hi everybody and welcome to Optometry TV. I’m Cara Moore joined now by Julie Colombino-Billingham. Thank you so much for being here with Deux Mains Design.

Julie Colombino: Thank you for having me.

Cara Moore: And we’re here to talk to you really about drawing attention to poverty, and more specifically global vision and eye care. And you’ve got a really unique personal story to tell that may start off with your jewelry, which is beautiful by the way.

Julie Colombino: Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, you know, I’ve learned a lot in the last 10 years. I went to Haiti, 10 days after the earthquake that destroyed the country in January of 2010. And I learned a lot. I was a professional disaster responder, but understanding the multifaceted issues of people in poverty, is every day a new learning experience and one that I’m grateful to have the chance to share with you because a lot of people don’t understand the problems with poverty and how, why are we here talking about eyes and poverty and eye care and poverty because it’s so intertwined. It truly is. And yes, my earrings were made at our factory Deux Mains Designs, which employees about 42 women and people who survived the earthquake. And one of those women, I met her because her son was going blind and losing his eyesight. And we had no idea what to do. I had nothing, I had no knowledge of eye care, I didn’t know anybody but all we did know is that we had to get him help. And because we were lucky enough to have the financial means and the connections, Elton, his name is, is a thriving young man actually right now. And is able to get the medical care that he needed and the eye care that he needed. But that is not the situation for millions of patients.

Cara Moore: And what is the message to people, specifically practitioners in this industry about what you’re seeing on the front lines?

Julie Colombino: Training is needed. So there are many, many opportunities. I tell this story quite often because in addition to our company, we have a charity in Haiti called Rebuild Globally. And we are so proud of that. We have a hundred percent graduation rate for our kids in Haiti, but the national average is 41% so the education is, we need help with our education system. But after the education, the bigger problem is there’s no access to trade skills, jobs. 1% of those students will go to university, only 1%. So I would love to share with the eye care professionals here that we need help with training. We need more eye doctors, we need, we need opportunities for internships, opportunities for them to go to school, opportunities for them to help people there. Because that’s, that’s really what we need is we need trained people in Haiti that can take care of the Haitian population.

Cara Moore: And you think that’s the biggest takeaway for practitioners?

Julie Colombino: Yeah. I mean, I’m in the footwear and handbag industry and what we’ve seen, what we’ve been able to do in 10 years is truly revolutionary. I mean, with a very, very one simple factory, one simple program, we’ve had 100% success rate. So if every industry could do something very similar and we’re happy to share our model, I think that we could see, we could see every industry start to thrive in a different way and really help all the needs of people in the most extreme poverty.

Cara Moore: Raising awareness too, about that need for eye care, which you had said even off camera that a lot of the people didn’t even know was out there.

Julie Colombino: Yeah. They, you know, and that’s something that you’re learning is that, when there’s different education levels, people don’t even, you don’t think about eye care when you’re thinking about, you’re hungry and so then things that are preventable just go by the wayside and then you have a blind population. You have, you have so many people that are, that are living blind that didn’t need to be.

Cara Moore: Right. Preventable.

Julie Colombino: Preventable. Yeah, that’s true.

Cara Moore: Well, Julie, thanks so much for being here. Certainly an important message and some great takeaways for us. We appreciate it.

Julie Colombino: Thank you.

Cara Moore: And thank you so much for watching optometry TV.

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