Since the middle of August, members of the Community Management Committees (CMCs) of the villages of Keur Simbara and Gniling Mbao, Senegal have been taking part in the trial phase of a new project aiming to raise funds while simultaneously improving community member’s vision, through a partnership with Community Enterprise Solutions.

Community Enterprise Solutions initially presented the project to all 17 members of each CMC, established during their communities’ participation in Tostan’s three-year Community Empowerment Program in order to lead development efforts, before asking the committees to select five members who would be trained to diagnose far- and near-sightedness among community members.

The ten CMC members chosen then took part in a day’s training, learning how to tell if a person is far- or near-sighted. Using these skills in conjunction with the project management skills learned during the CEP, they are now able to test other members of their community and surrounding communities for problems with their vision. For people found to be far-sighted, the CMC members advise them to go to the hospital to have their eyes tested professionally. When a tested community member turns out to be near-sighted, they are able to buy glasses directly from the CMC.

After the training, the ten participating CMCs were given a total of 210 pairs of glasses, at a gross value of 525,000 CFA,  including sunglasses as well as reading glasses. The CMC will sell each pair at a cost of 2,500 cfa (roughly $5), of which 1000 cfa will be used by the CMC for their community fund, to be used for development projects in the village, and a further 500 cfa will be kept as an investment to buy new stock when the supply of glasses runs out. The remaining 1000 cfa will be kept by the vendor, providing an income-generating activity.

At last count, the CMC members have sold a total of 77 pairs of glasses, raising 92,500 cfa in Keur Simbara and 100,000 cfa in Gniling Mbao. This project has shown just one example of how empowered communities can work together to create lasting local changes. Tostan’s Empowered Community Network connects CMCs like those of Keur Simbara and Gniling Mbao to other partners, such as Community Enterprise Solutions, in order to help them continue their community-led development projects and achieve their community’s vision for the future. 

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