Half Mag / Half Zine

Jeff Bezos’ former wife MacKenzie Scott has donated $15 million to provide hundreds of thousands of people with eyeglasses.

It’s believed to be the largest private donation towards assisting uncorrected blurry vision, and will help mainly low-income tea, coffee, cocoa and artisan workers in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

While it might not be as glamorous as pledging 10 billion dollars to save the world from climate change, the difference a pair of eyeglasses makes is huge, personal, and immediate.

The donation was made to VisionSpring, a non-profit targeting this economic hinderance. It’s believed these workers could produce $1 billion annually in additional value for themselves and their businesses thanks to the increased productivity from being able to see well.

“The gift from Ms. Scott is an incredible acknowledgment of the power of a simple pair of eyeglasses to unlock earning, learning, safety and wellbeing for people vulnerable to poverty,” VisionSpring’s chief executive Ella Gudwin said.

“And, with this powerful endorsement of our work, we are embarking on a multi-year journey to put Livelihoods in Focus, addressing the massive vision care gap among agricultural and artisan workers in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”

VisionSpring have highlighted that the benefits of a correct pair of eyeglasses are immediate, leading to reduced anxiety and depression and richer family lives from being able to see loved-ones’ faces and expressions more clearly.

Over time the better vision increases productivity and income, especially in fiddly tasks such as hand-pollinating a cocoa tree for example, or through better acquisition of knowledge at school and work.

The donation was made through Giving Pledge, an organization set up following several commitments from America’s richest to give away half their wealth to charity.

“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” Scott has said. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”