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MacKenzie Scott gives $15 million for eyeglasses for farm workers in developing countries

AP | Evan Agostini

In May 2019, MacKenzie Scott joined The Giving Pledge, a movement of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, stating that she had a disproportionate amount of money. She vowed to give away billions and began to do so almost immediately.

Recently, the 52-year-old billionaire — who is the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and, despite giving millions away already, is still the 31st richest person on the planet, according to Forbes — donated $15 million to New-York based VisionSpring. The gift will help provide eyeglasses for farm workers in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

VisionSpring helps to provide “radically affordable eyeglasses to low-income individuals in emerging and frontier markets where they work, learn, and live,” according to a press release announcing the gift. The organization says a simple pair of eyeglasses lifts productivity by 22-32% among workers.

 

In a Facebook post sharing an article by The Guardian, VisionSpring called the donation transformational and said it would introduce a strategic initiative called Livelihoods in Focus, designed to correct the vision of more than 6 million people by 2030.

“#LivelihoodsInFocus will focus on low-income tea, coffee, cocoa and artisan workers in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Correcting vision and providing #eyeglasses in targeted communities will improve workers’ income and well-being, unlocking more than $1 billion in new earning potential,” the organization said. “We are humbled to be given this opportunity to scale our impact. And, VisionSpring and our peers need many more philanthropic investors, along with governments, companies and NGOs, to join in bringing the wonder of clear vision to everyone.”

“The gift from Ms. Scott is an incredible acknowledgment of the power of a simple pair of eyeglasses to unlock earning, learning, safety and wellbeing for people vulnerable to poverty,” VisionSpring CEO Ella Gudwin said in a statement. “And, with this powerful endorsement of our work, we are embarking on a multi-year journey to put Livelihoods in Focus, addressing the massive vision care gap among agricultural and artisan workers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We need many more philanthropic investors, along with governments, companies and NGOs to join in bringing the wonder of clear vision to everyone.”

Scott’s other significant donations recently include $133.5 Million to Communities in Schools, $281 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and $275 million to Planned Parenthood.

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Tricia Goss

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