AdSpecs – bulky, “coke-bottle” glasses – brought a retired U.S. Marine to an MB church in Saskatchewan on Memorial Day weekend. May 29, Kevin White, founder of Global Vision 2010, an organization to promote AdSpecs, was featured speaker at a fundraiser for the first distribution centre of the low-cost, self-adjustable corrective eyewear, about to open – in a Waldheim MB Church storage room.
The glasses aren’t designed to replace optometrists, but to make glasses available to those without access to formal health care. A trained dispenser injects the lenses with silicon oil until the wearer experiences optimal vision.
It can take months for a group to order a shipment of the glasses from the Oxford manufacturer. With an eventual stockpile of 500 in Saskatchewan (160 at official opening June 1) mission teams from the Prairies can receive a shipment in the time it takes to drive to Waldheim. Trained members of the Waldheim congregation can teach volunteers to adjust the glasses properly; an instructional video is included with mailed orders (packed in 20s).
To date, the U.S. military and the United Nations are the primary dispensers of the lenses to far-flung regions of the world. Canadian Mennonite University’s discipleship school, Outtatown, took 120 pairs on their two-month outreach in Guatemala.
The military discovered the demographic over 40 has the greatest receptivity to the “goofy-looking” glasses. “When you’re younger, you can still force your eyes to work,” says pastor Greg Wiens, the driving force behind the distribution centre.
With AdSpecs, “many people can read again for the first time in a long time,” says Wiens. Carpenters have embraced AdSpecs. The U.S. military “learned the word for tape measure in many languages.” Women appreciate the glasses for cleaning stones and debris from rice before cooking it.
Wiens wants to see faith-based organizations catch the vision for this low-cost health-improving innovation. After reading a National Geographic article about Oxford professor Joshua Silver’s innovative vision aid two years ago, Wiens dreamed about “10 ideas that should have taken off but didn’t.” He decided to make sure AdSpecs didn’t land on that list.
AdSpecs cost $22 for pickup. The Waldheim distribution centre does not take any commission to cover their own costs. Because AdSpecs do not include a bifocal options, the Waldheim distribution centre also has good quality reading glasses available for $2.
“I feel God telling me to do this,” Wiens says of his activism for AdSpecs. A board – comprised of businessmen from the church – was recently formed to help Wiens. Board member Phil Daku was drawn into the project through Wiens’ enthusiasm and “a mind for needs in the world” as a result of his Christian walk. “This is something I can do for the needs out there – from Waldheim,” says the family man.
Many questions about how the distribution centre will work remain unanswered. Initially, the board hopes to spread news of the glasses through word of mouth to churches for distribution through short-term mission trips. They plan to have representation at winter mission fests in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. “We are the first. If it falls flat, it falls flat with us,” says Wiens. “If it takes off, we’re a part of that.”