Ocutech supports optometrist who created non-profit to serve visually impaired children in Namibia

Dr. Chantal Overvliet, of the Oculus Vision Centre in Windhoek, is the sole optometrist providing low vision care in all of Namibia. After learning of the urgent needs of the 132 children at the country’s only school for the visually impaired, she and her business partner and Low Vision assistant, Michelle Opperman, created a non-profit project to provide high-level low vision testing and products to the students. The school’s principal, Smithly Engelbrecht, said he was so grateful for the important work Dr. Overvliet is doing.

In the back row: Chantal Overvliet (Optometrist at Oculus Low Vision Centre), Mr. Smithly Engelbrecht (Principal), Ms. Beverly Coussement (Public Relations Officer at NAMDIA), Mrs. Mugunda (Teacher), Mr. Andreas (Teacher) and Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support at Oculus Low Vision Centre) with the Prevocational and Grade 9 learners of the School.

Since close to 80% of these students are from less privileged households, their families could not afford the high-quality low vision aids that would allow the children to maximize their educational opportunities. The testing process, which was provided by Oculus at no cost, took close to a year to complete as it had to be scheduled between the daily functions of the practice. Once their vision needs were identified, Dr. Overvliet approached many organizations in search of funding to provide these special low vision aids to these deserving children.

After visiting the school and learning about its programs and seeing the amazing work done by the teachers and administration, the Renaissance Health Medical Aid Fund selected the project as their biggest Corporate Social Investments (CSI) to date. According to the fund, part of their sponsorship and CSI policy focuses on youth and health-related issues.  “We came to understand that children with visual impairments will find it hard to get through life without the necessary early life training and visual and mobility aids required. These services can make a real impact for these children and on society and this need fit exactly into our fund’s social investment mission,” said Kwendhi Amagulu, Renaissance’s senior marketing officer. Namdia, the Namibian diamond company, has also become a sponsor of the project.

Ocutech was pleased and honored to have its products selected for these children and offered special reduced pricing to enable the project to reach as many children as possible. They are especially well received by children due to their ease of use, wearing comfort and hi-tech appearance.  They are designed to be easy and convenient for low vision specialists to fit and prescribe and can be updated as children grow.

Overvliet’s and Opperman’s joint passion is to enhance vision for visually impaired children in Namibia. “Our goal is to help them maximize their academic and personal potential to allow them to become productive members in their communities,” they said.

Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support) demonstrating how to use the VES Sport telescope to a Grade 9 learner.

To contact the Oculus Vision Centre visit www.oculusvisioncentre.com.

In back row: Chantal Overvliet (Optometrist at Oculus Low Vision Centre), Mr. Smithly Engelbrecht (Principal), Ms. Beverly Coussement (Public Relations Officer at NAMDIA), Mrs. Mugunda (Teacher) and Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support at Oculus Low Vision Centre) with all the children that received the VES Sport telescopes and Sightscopes.

Link to Press Release: Downloadable PDF

Open Letter to a Mom Parenting a Child with Albinism from a College Student living with Ocular Albinism

This open letter is my response to an article written by Lee Kofman and published on Mamamia.com.

Dear Dr. Kofman,

I was pleasantly surprised to come across your recent post about parenting your son who has albinism. In my opinion, there aren’t enough people like you sharing these stories which help to enlighten the community. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mack, I am 20 years old, and live in North Carolina, United States. I was born with another form of albinism, ocular albinism. This genetic variant affects my vision in many similar ways as your son Ollie’s. I have a nystagmus that people usually cannot help but notice, lack sufficient melanin in the iris and retina parts of my eyes, and have trouble reading classroom boards, restaurant menus, books… you name it. 

Your son Ollie, sounds precious and gifted, playing piano at such a young age! I applaud your continual effort to locate all the resources available to you to help your son grow up with everything he could need. I too have been through that cycle of conferences, appointments, and specialists. I have heard my fair share about stigma surrounding physically apparent conditions like albinism. One thing that I think has helped so many people with low vision to reach their potential is to come into contact with the right advocacy group that changes the individuals life forever. And while I do not want to provide anyone with false hope, I would be remiss not to share with you my story and how I found the thing that can help me reach my potential.

When I was an infant, my parents learned I had ocular albinism, and from that point on, 20 years ago, my parents lived with the fear of me not being able to drive. For 14 years it had never crossed my mind I could be even more different than I had realized, never pondering my ability to obtain a driver’s license. My parents, holding out for some miracle, kept in touch with my low vision specialist in between appointments about any new breakthroughs in the field that would enable low vision patients to drive. They learned about Ocutech and I soon got one of their products which allowed me to drive! I then was able to drive myself to school, athletics practice, and to friends’ houses. This was something my parents never expected me to be able to do myself.

I now attend University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am a third year studying economics and entrepreneurship, still using my bioptic device to drive everywhere! I also now work as an intern for Ocutech, the very same company who gave me so much independence. My job there is to share my story, and how their product changed my life forever. Eager to make an impact, I have searched for people who could benefit from my story. Upon reading this heartfelt post of your experience so far with Ollie, I could not help but reach out.

If you are interested in seeing what could be out there for Ollie, I would love to answer any questions you might have and be a resource for you to make sure you leave no stone unturned. Please reach out to me at my personal email mackdespard@ocutech.com, I would love to get to know you and your family!

Eager to hear from you soon!

Best,

Mack Despard

Living Life Karina Fuentes Style: There is Always A Way of Helping.

Quick Note from the Author:
Wow! Let me just say that this is one of those stories that stuck with me; a constant reminder that the only things in life that we have control over are the choices we make for ourselves. After reading Karina Fuentes’ response to our Personal Story Questionnaire, I couldn’t wait to share her story with as many people as possible! So without further ado….


“The whole migration thing is such a struggle, it’s like we were back to zero.”

Karina was born with a visual impairment because she has Albinism. Until recently, the 22 year old lived in the Philippines where she was prescribed the Ocutech VES-Sport bioptic by her low vision specialist, Dr. Carmela Ongsiako. After finishing school two years ago, Karina and her mother migrated from the Philippines to the United States. “My Ocutech bioptic has been such a great help to me at school when I was studying.” In her home country, Karina used her bioptic and excelled in school. She attended the University of the East where she graduated with honors (Cum Laude) and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In addition to being smart and driven, Karina is a talented and passionate writer – she has an online presence where many of her poems, song lyrics and short stories have been published. Oh, and did we mention that she can sing too? Karina is an avid choir member and featured soloist. 

Karina talking about her time at the Braille Institute of America:

“I have learned a lot from that wonderful community” After movng to the United States, Karina was an intern at the Braille Institute of America. Currently, she works as a full-time receptionist and uses her bioptic daily for clerical tasks that require a significant amount of reading. Karina prefers her Ocutech bioptics over other devices such as hand-held magnifiers because of the versatility and efficiency that comes with the ability to seamlessly move between viewing an object up-close and at a distance, such as reading a book and then looking up at a computer screen. “I do a lot of clerical tasks that require me to read a lot and my device Ocutech Sport has been a really big help for me to do my job well.” 

Karina talking about the lessons she’s learned:

  • One very important thing that I have learned recently, is that you have to keep on looking for ways to innovate or improve yourself and your capabilities, learning and growing should NEVER stop.
  • Even if you have limitations – such as someone who is visually impaired, you can still do so many things that those without physical impairments can do. There are many resources available, people who care and people willing to help.
  • If you have a disability, you are also capable of helping others who need assistance. When people see a visually impaired person striving to be better and do better, it is a source of inspiration in and of itself. And that is another way of helping. 🙂