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The Optical Foundation as it is today, is the brainchild of Dr Carolina Kunnen. But like most historical events, the story starts long before there was even a hint of a concept, let alone a founding date.
As an 8-year-old girl Carolina was looking at pictures of her grandparents travels in Ghana. Her grandparents had travelled to Ghana in the 1960’s to visit her great-uncle who was living there at the time and had set up the first secondary school in Northern Ghana. She was so inspired, curious and determined that one day she would travel to Ghana.
When in 2005, Carolina was working as an optometrist for Lens BV she was introduced to Arthur Alberts, a Dutch optometrist, who was looking for somebody to help him get The Optical Foundation he had founded in 2004 off the ground.
Carolina was immediately enthusiastic about what The Optical Foundation potentially could mean for the people in Ghana and was happy to assist in whichever way she could, even before she joined the foundation.
In 2006 Carolina officially joined the organisation and in February 2007 at the age of 24 she not only launched The Optical Foundation’s first project, but also became the organisation’s first volunteer to run a project in Ghana. As she had never travel to Africa before, Huub Villevoye, the organisation’s treasure and seasoned traveller accompanied her for the first two weeks and from then onward, she was on her own.
Spending almost a year in Ghana, Carolina firmly established The Optical Foundation’s presence through the relationships she built at the University of Cape Coast, local eye clinics and other contacts she made during the initial stages of her stay. She laid the foundations for the organisation’s direction when she started lecturing and helping with the practical classes at the University of Cape Coast, while waiting for the eye examination equipment to arrive in Ghana.
It was during this time she found out how little practical experience the Ghanaian optometry students were getting, so when the equipment arrived she decided to include optometry students as a component of the program, by allowing them to perform the comprehensive eye examinations under her supervision and guidance.
This is when the idea, that ‘enhancing’ education had to be a component of The Optical Foundation’s mission, was born!
On her return to the Netherlands in 2008 Carolina took on the role of President of The Optical Foundation and she still holds this position.
In the mean time our team has grown both in numbers and enthusiasm, and we continue to write The Optical Foundation’s story with every optometry student’s education we enhance and every child’s vision we help save.
The Optical Foundation’s mission is to make eye care accessible to everyone in Ghana, especially children. This will be achieved through propelling the field of optometry in Ghana through comprehensive eye examinations, education and research programs, which will create a self-reliant eye health care framework which will be duplicated across all developing nations in Africa.
Provide Ghanaian optometry students of the University of Cape Coast with training to become eye specialist in their own country, by letting them perform eye tests under supervision at primary schools, orphanages and other communities.
Empowerment of women, to break the cycle of gender bias.
Train Ghanaian optometrists to become project leaders, with the ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient.
Ensure lectures are giving and supervision is provided at the optometry clinic of the University of Cape Coast.
Establish scientific research projects in Ghana.
Organise International professors to visit Ghana to give lectures aimed at inspiring and motivating (student) optometrists.
Help junior optometry teachers apply for travel grants to attend international conferences.
Long Term Goal: Expand the project to other regions in Ghana and eventually to other African countries, specifically with the assistance of locally trained.
Make eye care accessible to everyone in Ghana, especially for children. We want to reach this by providing spectacles for children who need them and by referring children to an ophthalmologist or the eye clinic at the University of Cape Coast as the need arises.
Ensuring the availability of enough equipment for the university for both the eye screening as well as educational purposes.
Stimulate local initiatives by allowing Ghanaian (student) optometrists to organise screenings in collaborating with the foundation “Tomorrow Stars” and the “World Eye Foundation.
Based across 4 different continents, our well-rounded board is made up of a team of individuals from a wide range of disciplines and industries. They bring together a diverse mix of skills, expertise and experience. Charged with the responsibly for providing strategic direction and governance, ensuring effective financial and risk management oversight and continued organisational viability and sustainability, this pool of diverse talent provides a balanced approach to everything we do and all the decisions we make as an organisation.
BOptom, BHealth, PhD
Ghana Branch Lead
Our Advisory Board
This international team of professionals provides the board with support and advice, and offers insights to assist The Optical Foundation to produce meaningful results and impact. Each member of the Advisory Committee is a non-affiliated individual and like The Optical Foundation’s board, they fulfill their role on a voluntarily basis.
The Optical Foundation has a Global Ambassador Program that promotes TOF initiatives throughout the world. Our Ambassadors are world changers and are involved in many ways, such as coordinate fundraisers, volunteering, recruit sponsors, and promote TOF on social media and by word of mouth.
Bianca van Leeuwen