One in ten schoolchildren in Mexico needs corrective lenses, but in poorer regions, as many as 60 percent of these kids aren't getting them. Eyecare is an unattainable luxury for many families, and the cheapest available frames tend to be thick and ill-fitting, not to mention hopelessly uncool.
Mexico's vision problems call for a visionary thinker—someone like Yves Béhar, the San Francisco-based product designer who created the durable $100 computers for the One Laptop Per Child program and Puma's eco-friendly "Clever Little Bag" packaging. Now Béhar's design firm, Fuseproject
, has partnered with the Mexican government and the nonprofit See Better to Learn Better to provide free glasses and eye exams for 300,000 Mexican children by year's end, and another 300,000 in 2011.
"One of our goals was for kids to participate in the design of their own glasses," says Béhar. "It's the best way to get them to fall in love with something they use and wear every day." The super-flexible, extra-durable plastic frames come in seven colors, five shapes, and three sizes, and snap together and apart with ease (which makes updating prescriptions simpler). Kids can mix and match shades and styles to their taste, and customized nose pads allow for a snug, comfortable fit. Total cost of exam and specs: $10 (the Mexican government kicks in half).
Béhar is working with a group of entrepreneurs to bring the program to the United States; meanwhile thank-you letters have been pouring in from kids across Mexico. "I can see that grass is made of blades!" one child exclaimed. Another simply wrote, "Now that I have glasses, I can see my mother. I can see how beautiful she is."
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