From Mission Trips to Self-Sustaining Eye Care
Twenty-five years ago, one blind man cradled in his sons’ arms emerged from the Guatemalan rainforest and started our quest to cure treatable blindness.
He crossed countless miles of wilderness for help…
….but the mission team couldn’t give him a 10-minute cataract surgery to restore his sight.
He wasn’t the only person turned away that day.
That’s when we saw how mission trips with limited time and resources can undermine prospects for sustainable, permanent, high-volume, high-quality eye care.
Patients need surgery and medical follow-up; eyeglasses break; recycled eyeglasses don’t work most of the time; medications need to be refilled; and eye trauma happens 52 weeks a year – not just when mission teams are there.
Creating A Local Care Model
Deeply motivated to care for the poor, three early mission team members were starting a private eye care practice in Guatemala City. With help from MacArthur Foundation Fellow, David Green, and International Eye Foundation Director of Sustainability Initiatives, Raheem Rahmathullah, they turned their new practice into a social service enterprise and Visualiza was born.
This meant some patients would pay full price for eye care, others would only pay some of the total cost, and the poorest patients wouldn’t pay anything…
…but EVERYONE would get the same quality of care!
And THAT meant a larger amount of profit had to be reinvested in the business. It was a serious personal sacrifice and financial risk for these young doctors just starting out.
But a dedicated group of donors also helped get Visualiza underway and kept it going until we reached financial independence.
Starting with one eye care clinic and supporting mobile clinics in Guatemala’s Peten Rainforest, Visualiza expanded to two Eye Care Hospitals and four supporting Vision Centers between 1996 and 2016.
Today, Visualiza employs more than 200 medical and administrative staff (with 18 ophthalmologists and 17 optometrists) serving over 150,000 patients – including more than 12,000 surgeries – every year, regardless of ability to pay.
Our eye care network is also supported by a host of non-governmental international partners, like the Aravind Hospital, Seva Foundation, the International Eye Foundation, the International Association to Prevent Blindness, and the Christian Blind Mission.
Partnering with us since 2006, Seva Foundation is now a co-fundraising partner with Vision for the Poor, helping to broaden our reach to US-based and international donors in support of our Visualiza National Eye Care Plan for Guatemala.
What Self-Sustaining Eye Care Means
Every Visualiza Eye Care Hospital and Vision Center supports itself financially after one year of operation. Donations get facilities built, staffed, and working. Social service enterprise practices – tested and proven over 25 years – fund all future needs.
Each Eye Care Hospital Annual Goals
Each Vision Center Annual Goals
Reaching Every Guatemalan Man, Woman, and Child in Need
Help us expand the Visualiza Social Service Enterprise model across ALL OF GUATEMALA!See Our National Eye Care Plan Details & Budget