How Your Purchase Restores Sight

Building a better tomorrow through our evolved giving model

Optical equipment

Five years after TOMS gave away its first pair of shoes, we took our next big step with the launch of TOMS Eyewear.

Why eyewear? Just like in the beginning, it started with a need: 285 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired—80% of them don’t have to be1. So, we designed a solution modeled after our shoe-giving: with every pair of eyewear purchased, TOMS would help restore sight to a person in need. 

We launched our Sight Giving Program in partnership with Seva Foundation. Seva works with local communities around the world to develop self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight, and they have been a critical partner to TOMS throughout the evolution of our sight giving efforts.

Each sight restoration begins with a full eye exam by trained medical professionals, followed by the treatment a patient needs, whether that’s prescription eyeglasses, medical treatment, or sight-saving surgery. 

In 2012, we began partnering with Helen Keller International to expand the impact of your purchase. Helen Keller International fills a critical need for those with limited access to basic vision services by bringing high-quality care directly to low-income communities around the world—including those in the US— often through schools and community centers.

770,000+ sight restorations later, our model continues to expand.

Today, every TOMS purchase—from sunglasses and optical frames to shoes and apparel—helps restore sight to those in need. Additionally, we’ve started to fund locally-run vision centers in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. That means your purchase will impact not just one life, but many lives for years to come.

1WHO, Vision 2020

Person receiving vision screening
Man holding eyeglasses
Man recovering from cataract surgery
Man holding eyeglasses
Child in recovery from surgery with woman

Our New Model: Why and How

In 2016, we began working with our Sight Giving Partners to help establish self-sustaining vision centers in rural communities around the world. The goal? To stretch your impact even further.

To illustrate the difference, here’s a look at our original model for vision care outside of the US: 

Our partners identify people in need through outreach camps in remote areas. Then, traveling eye care medical teams perform screenings, helping to provide necessary services. While the quality of care is high, these mobile camps only reach about 7% of the people who need eye care services2

So, as part of our evolved model, we decided to invest significantly in vision centers, too. 

Vision centers are permanent facilities capable of addressing up to 80% of a community's eye care needs3. Services include comprehensive eye exams, prescription eyeglasses, and emergency eye care. Patients with additional needs (most commonly cataract surgery) are referred to an eye hospital that’s linked to the vision center.

To date, we’ve already helped build 37 vision centers.

2“Low uptake of eye services in rural India”; Astrid E. Fletcher et al; Archives of Ophthalmology Vol 117, Oct 1999
3Vision Centre Manual - A VISION 2020: The Right To Sight India Publication. 2011

Map of where TOMS helps restore sight
Map of where TOMS helps restore sight
Map of where TOMS helps restore sight
Map of where TOMS helps restore sight

Beyond obvious benefits, like providing immediate access to eye care and reducing the prevalence of blindness, vision centers can help uplift entire communities. Here is where maximizing the impact of your purchase really comes into play. 

For example, vision centers can dramatically increase basic access to care for women.

Today, more than half of those who are visually impaired are women4.

This is due to a wide range of gender-based obstacles, including limited mobility and financial freedom. Local vision centers are able to serve a particularly high rate of women simply because they’re close to home, and they require less time and travel than distant hospitals.

With their sight restored, women can return to the workforce, resulting in greater independence and increased household incomes.

Vision centers also create employment opportunities and spur economic development in rural communities. This is vital. Depending upon the environment, vision centers can become fully or largely financially self-sufficient within three years of opening.

4http://atlas.iapb.org/global-burden-vision-impairment/gbvi-global-disaggregation-of-numbers-for-gender-and-age/

Female having vision tested.
Female having vision tested.
Female having vision tested.
Female having vision tested.
Female having vision tested.

While not all of our Giving Partners run vision centers, every partner is invested in the bigger picture. When a person in need has their sight restored, they’re able to regain their independence and become more deeply involved in their community.  

Of course, we have another critical partner in this: you.

None of this would be possible without your purchase, be it eyewear or footwear.

So, whether you’re buying a pair of TRAVELERs or TRVL LITEs, you create lasting, maximized change by supporting long-term solutions—improving lives today, and well into the future.