Special-edition, Congolese-inspired TOMS Shoes
We're teaming up with Giving Partner Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an advocacy and grant-making organization founded by Ben Affleck, on two Congolese-inspired designs with an additional give. Read More >>
TOMS x charity: water - An Eyewer collaboration
TOMS and charity: water, an organization founded in 2006 (like TOMS!) that’s dedicated to to helping bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, join forces for the first-ever TOMS Eyewear collab! Read More >>
Giving TOMS Shoes in the DRC
Founded by Ben Affleck in 2010, ECI is an advocacy and grant-making organization that works with and for the people of DRC, the third most populous country in Africa, and one that struggled under a cycle of violence for nearly 20 years – particularly in the east. Read More >>
Profiles in One for One: Dr. Mariano Yee, founder of Visualiza Eye Care Center
After wrapping up his studies in ophthalmology in 2002, Dr. Mariano Yee founded the Visualiza Eye Care System with the help of his brother, Nicolás, and his wife, Kimberly, to provide high-quality eye care in Guatemala City. Moved by Guatemalan’s in need of eye care, but unable to access or afford it, Dr. Mariano and his staff expanded Visualiza in 2005 to offer public eye care services. Following Aravind’s model — the world’s largest eye care system, Visualiza’s paying patients subsidize those that cannot afford care. In 2012, Visualiza became a TOMS Sight Giving Partner.
Read on as Dr. Mariano tells us his inspiring story, and see where his tale intertwines with the One for One movement…
TOMS: Can you tell us more about Visualiza and the mission that surrounds it?
Dr. Mariano: We are a group of ophthalmologists who decided to open our private practice to all the people. So, no matter if you are poor or if you are rich…we are open to everybody.
TOMS: When did you first realize there was a need for eye care in Guatemala?
Dr. Mariano: When I finished my residency program, we realized there were so many needs, especially in one of the [districts] in Guatemala; in Petén, which is the northern part of the country. This department was so isolated and had no eye care whatsoever…we used to go there once a month for a week to take patients, do screening, do surgeries. At the same time, I used to have my private practice in the city. Then we analyzed the practice and the city and realized the need is humongous in Guatemala, so we decided to turn the private practice into what it is now.
TOMS: How are you at Visualiza able to provide eye care access to such a wide range of patients in need?
Dr. Mariano: So at Visualiza, we have a private clinic and a social clinic. We tell the patients that whenever they come in for an eye exam or for a surgery, a percentage of that goes to help people in the social section. And that’s how it works. People know that if you go to the private clinic, you [help] subsidize the social section…This practice is the first time that something like this is being done in Latin America.
TOMS: How does TOMS fit into the equation?
Dr. Mariano: Now TOMS is helping us with the outreach and with free surgery for the kids, for blind patients with cataracts, [for people who need glasses or medical treatment]. It’s been great. We have all these organizations [like TOMS and Seva Foundation] working together with Visualiza.
We [also] have a kids project. We go to the public schools in Guatemala, which are very, very poor schools. Sometimes they don’t even have a desk to sit. We do eye screenings. Each year we screen about 30,000 kids. With the help we receive from TOMS [we can] help the [children] that we screen. If we detect kids with cataracts, we operate these kids for free. And that is thanks to [TOMS Eyewear purchases].
TOMS: What part of this amazing undertaking has been the most rewarding for you, as its founder?
Dr. Mariano: When you think about what we’re doing, you know, when you see a patient who was blind and now can see…you realize you’re doing something really good. When you see a little kid that you operate on and you give him sight back again, you know this kid probably will grow and will be able to learn and go to school to become someone and no longer a burden to the family.
So when you rehabilitate a person, you help the family, you help the community. So the impact that we can have on people’s lives is humongous.