ERLANGEN, GERMANY – In 2009, Martin Aufmuth, a math and physics teacher, stumbled upon the inspiration for his award-winning, life-changing invention while reading the book Out of Poverty by Paul Polak. Polak outlined a yet-to-be-created set of eyeglasses affordable to those living on less than $1 per day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 150 million people worldwide are in need of glasses. Such people cannot learn, cannot work and cannot provide for their families. Aufmuth set out to bring Polak’s imagination to fruition.
After two years and thousands of patents, Aufmuth successfully constructed the ideal pair of glasses (cheap and durable) along with a handheld machine to fashion the glasses. In 2012 he went to Uganda to test his creation where he trained 5 opticians and provided 500 children with glasses. Three months later the official organization of OneDollarGlasses was formed and recognized as a charity.
By 2016 OneDollarGlasses transformed the life and business of Malawian optician Chilungamo Chisuse. He now sells the glasses from the German NGO for just $1. The glasses cost less than $1 to manufacture, and assembly takes only 20 minutes. Before selling the glasses, Chisuse could not afford a decent house, three meals a day for his family or support for his relatives.
The OneDollarGlasses initiative in Malawi is called the Good Vision Glasses project and helps far more people than Chisuse. Not only does the OneDollarGlasses foundation provide glasses to those who have never been able to afford them before, it also provides careers by training new opticians to prescribe, fit and assemble future pairs of glasses. The idea is for communities in need of eye care to provide the supply to improve self-sustainability. Furthermore, those who receive the glasses are able to improve their performance in school or go to work.
The optician’s equipment is organized to be usable in the remotest of areas. No electricity is required for manufacturing, and all equipment fits in a handheld box. The frames are made from lightweight, flexible, rustproof and hypoallergenic 1mm-spring-steel wire in the specially designed bending and milling machine. The lenses are polished, unbreakable polycarbonate with a hardened surface and can be clicked into the frame by hand. The glasses are so lightweight that they do not require traditional nose bridges.
To date, OneDollarGlasses has established optician clinics and provided eyeglasses to thousands of people in Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda.
– Sophie Nunnally