MELAKA: A heart-wrenching story of a Year Six pupil inspired an optometrist to kickstart an initiative to provide free spectacles to thousands of deserving schoolchildren since 2010.
Datuk Dr Murphy Chan Hian Kee recalled how a 12-year-old motivated him to propel his charitable work that has benefited thousands of students and the underprivileged community in the state over the past 13 years.
“I vividly remember testing the visual acuity of the boy with an eye chart when I detected he had difficulties in reading and needed a pair of spectacles.
“The boy looked at me and replied nonchalantly that he knew that he had trouble with his eyesight but his mother asked him to live with it,” he said in an interview.
Chan then asked the boy why his mother had not made any attempt to get him a pair of spectacles or seek help for his condition.
“The boy informed me that his mother had no money and that she could only offer prayers for him to see clearly.
“He also asked me if he would be blind in future if he continued not to wear spectacles.
“His words touched me and sparked my interest to pursue a new kind of charity fulfilment through launching a free eyeglass project for deserving students,” said the 57-year-old.
Chan, who is also an advisory council member of Asia Optometric Congress, said he focused on schoolchildren as the consequences of not addressing eyesight problems at an early stage could be dire.
“A study showed that students who performed poorly were misdiagnosed with behavioural disorders when the actual reason was poor vision,” he said.
This is the reason Chan’s company – Eyecon Optometry Network – has gone big with the charity programme over the years by working closely with local communities and school managements to help provide improved vision and promote eye health among schoolchildren.
Chan believes that a simple pair of spectacles could dramatically improve the lives of poor students.
“Since 2010, Eyecon has assisted thousands of deserving and underprivileged communities to have better eye care and provided vision aid, reaching out to schools as well as orphanages and elderly folk,” said the father of two boys.
Chan said his team was able to reach out to schools in rural areas through a mobile vision vehicle, equipped with portable vision-testing equipment to detect vision errors, binocular vision problems, colour vision and all kinds of eye diseases.
He works relentlessly to provide quality eye care and transform the lives of underprivileged children where Eyecon has launched a campaign called “Penglihatan Jelas, Prestasi Cemerlang” (PJPC) to continue the noble work.
Chan said PJPC has reached out to schoolchildren to create an awareness of the importance of good vision, educating them with good visual hygiene and guiding them to perform well in schools, both academic or non-academic, through guided vision exercises.
“Under the PJPC, I have compartmentalised the rewarding system for schoolchildren to qualify subsequent free eyeglasses in a bid to teach them to appreciate the complimentary spectacles.
“Apart from excelling in studies, students with good co-curricular achievements and high discipline will qualify for the annual spectacles giveaway.
“Respecting teachers and parents is an additional criterion that I have incorporated in my reward system,” he said.
Chan said Eyecon has also reached out to offer free spectacles to deserving caregivers, who have dedicated their efforts and time to care for the less fortunate.
“We hope that by providing good eye care and a pair of spectacles can uplift the lives of these children as they can see better in classes and perform better academically,” he said.
Chan’s goal is to perform more free screenings and reach out to deserving schoolchildren throughout the country, especially on myopia management.
“There is a need to address myopia as it is now the number one vision-related issue in Asia,” he said.
Chan said myopia would result in future eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular degeneration and other complications.
He also said myopia has become more widespread in recent times due to lifestyle and increased screen time.
“The WHO estimates that half of the population worldwide may be myopic by 2050,” he said, referring to the World Health Organisation.