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Merger means greater efficiency and resources for charity

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L–R, Country Manager, Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation/Optometry Giving Sight,
Ron Baroni, Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation Chief Operating Officer Amanda Davis and Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation Global Head of Philanthropy Clive Miller
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Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute

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By Helen Carter
Journalist

Optometrists have been reassured that their donations to Optometry Giving Sight will continue to fund spectacles and eye examinations for people in need when the charity merges with Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation.

From March the Foundation and OGS in Australia will become one charity, and in coming months a similar process will follow for OGS offices in the US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Europe and Singapore.

The merged charity will be called the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation, and Optometry Giving Sight will continue as a key campaign of the foundation.

All current agreements with Optometry Giving Sight project partners including ProVision Optometric Teams, Sumba Eye Program and Symbiosis International will continue, and the OGS brand will also be maintained.

Optometry Giving Sight’s Australian manager Ron Baroni told Optometry Australia: ‘There will be no change to our vision and mission, or to the projects that we are currently funding. In fact, we will become more efficient and be able to allocate more resources to projects under the new arrangement.

‘Karen Couston and I will continue to work in support of the campaign, but now with the support of a bigger team.

‘We are also excited that we are now part of an organisation that provides access to eye health for Indigenous Australians, as we know that will please many of our donors and sponsors.’

Mr Baroni said the foundation and OGS had worked closely together since OGS was founded and had provided funding for many of the foundation’s high impact programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These include support for 12 schools of optometry in eight countries, the establishment of vision centres, school eye health programs and a range of community education and advocacy projects.

Generous support from optometrists

Mr Baroni said that more than 60 per cent of Australia’s independent optometrists and many of their vendor partners support the charity through cash and in kind donations.

‘Together we have been able to provide funding to more than 117 projects in 39 countries since the organisation was established, providing sight and hope to millions,’ he said.

‘With the help of Australia’s generous optometrists, this valuable work will continue.’

He said the annual OGS World Sight Day Challenge held throughout October would continue.

sure eye care team

The Sure Eye Care team. Photo: Jen O’Keefe Photography

One practice which regularly takes part in the World Sight Day Challenge to raise money for Optometry Giving Sight is Sure Eye Care in Gosford, NSW. The team organises an annual Highballs for Eyeballs event with cocktail bar ReviveR.

Owner and principal optometrist Dr Amanda Rungis said that over the years the event had raised at least $18,000 which translated to about 3,600 people now being able to see because of a new pair of glasses.

‘We encourage optometrists to join the World Sight Day Challenge and to think outside the box about how they can make the challenge an interesting, fun experience for their staff and patients, and make an important difference to the world,’ she said.

Boosting effectiveness and resources

Optometry Giving Sight’s global chair Dr Juan Carlos Aragon announced the merger on 30 January and said the directors had resolved to merge the organisation at its global board meeting in October 2017.

Dr Aragon said the decision was made with the aim of increasing effectiveness of OGS and bringing together resources of both to better serve global communities.

‘This merger comes as a natural development for our organisation as the Brien Holden Vision Institute was one of our founding members 14 years ago,’ he said in a statement.

‘The decision was based on a desire to ensure that by working more closely together, the entities could achieve more significant and sustained outcomes to benefit the millions of people who are needlessly blind or vision impaired simply because they can’t access an eye exam and glasses from a qualified optometrist.

‘Support for public eye health has changed enormously since 2003 when Professor Brien Holden first established Optometry Giving Sight in partnership with the World Council of Optometry and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

‘Optometry Giving Sight has done an incredible job over the past 14 years in mobilising resources from the global optometric profession and industry to support more than 117 high impact eye and vision care projects in 39 countries around the world.

‘Our goal is to ensure the campaign can continue to grow and develop. The board feels this can be done most effectively as part of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation.’

Proud and grateful

Brien Holden Vision Institute CEO Professor Kovin Naidoo welcomed the move and encouraged donors to continue supporting OGS.

‘We have always regarded Optometry Giving Sight as a part of the Brien Holden Vision Institute family,’ he said in a press release. ‘By merging our operations, we become more effective and gain the opportunity to maximise the resources that we can dedicate to key program areas.

‘These include the Our Children’s Vision campaign, education and training for new and established optometrists in emerging communities, and a range of advocacy activities with organisations including the World Council of Optometry and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.’

Professor Naidoo said he believed the late Professor Brien Holden would have been enormously proud of what Optometry Giving Sight had achieved and be incredibly grateful for the support provided by donors, sponsors, staff, and global and national boards.

‘I know it would be Brien’s fervent wish that our current donors and sponsors continue to support Optometry Giving Sight as we move forward and focus on the growing impact of myopia on children throughout the world, and the need to train and equip many more optometrists to be able to provide services in areas of great need.’

Dr Aragon will join the board of the foundation and said all current OGS global board members had been invited to continue to support the campaign as part of a newly formed advisory board.

Clive Miller finished as Optometry Giving Sight CEO in December 2017 and is now global head of philanthropy for the foundation. All other OGS staff will remain working in the merged organisation.

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