Global Vision 2020 organization wins award for technological innovation that helps meet global humanitarian challenges
For Winnipegger Greg Wiens 2020 was quite the year. Not only did he help tens of thousands of people see more clearly, but the organization he serves with received a prestigious award for that work.
Wiens, pastor of the Westwood Community Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation, is the Canadian representative and faith-based outreach co-ordinator for Global Vision 2020, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to helping the poor in the developing world get inexpensive eyeglasses.
Last year he helped Global Vision 2020 (www.GV2020.org) provide more than 65,000 pairs of glasses to people in the developing world. But the big highlight was in September when the organization received a Patents for Humanity Award from the U.S. Patent Office.
The award, which recognizes innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges, was given to Global Vision 2020 for its innovative USee Vision Kit which enables people in the developing world to do their own eye test and get inexpensive prescription eyeglasses – in just a few minutes.
"It was quite an honour," said Wiens, 45, who trains church and mission groups to use the self-serve vision kits, which employ the same concept as binoculars.
"Users turn a dial until they can clearly see the eye chart," he said. "They select their own prescription."
Once the prescription is known, the user is matched with a pair of lenses in an inexpensive frame. Each pair costs about $6 each.
So far, Wiens has trained people from 28 organizations and churches to use the kit. His ultimate goal is to see the kits be used to help people in the developing world create self-sustaining businesses – not be dependent on groups from North America.
"I don’t want to be a white saviour, someone who comes and then leaves," he said. "I want to train local people so they can start businesses, earn income and take care of their own families."
Although glad to have helped many people see better, it’s just a drop in the bucket for Wiens.
"Worldwide 2.5 billion people need glasses, but can’t afford them," he said. "When someone can see clearly for first time, you just weep over it. It changes everything about their lives."