Blake Mycoskie Is Giving the Gift of Sight
Advocacy Philanthropist and founder of TOMS Blake Mycoskie inspires millions to take action to help the blind and vision-impaired community.
Media Planet: How did you come up with the One for One model?
Blake Mycoskie: Back in 2006 when I returned home from a trip to Argentina, I told all of my friends and family, and pretty much anyone who would listen, about my trip. I went to Buenos Aires to relax and learn to play polo, and I discovered the alpargata, a shoe that had been worn by Argentine farmers and polo players for more than 100 years.
I went on a volunteer "shoe drive" where used shoes were being collected from wealthy families and given to children in the surrounding villages. After that, my goal to create what a for-profit business (not a charity) that would give 250 pairs of new shoes to the children whoI had met.
When I first met these children in South America who did not have shoes, I wanted to give them the shoes they needed to go to school. I did recognized giving them shoes once or even twice wasnot really going to be effective. They needed a commitment of shoes on to ongoing basis, over and over again.
MP: When and what made you decide to venture into eyewear?
BM: As we started looking around the different communities we serve, we recognized that there were many kids who could not see the chalkboard. They were not getting the education they needed, and were being treated differently. Sometimes they were being misdiagnosed with a learning disability when, really, they just could not see. At the same time, we saw a lot of elderly people developing cataracts, and the detrimental impact that had on their families as well.
"We've helped restore sight to over 325,000 people, and that number is growing every day."
So, when we learned that there were amazing Nonprofit Organizations helping with cataracts, prescription glasses and eye treatments, and that we could build their costs into the cost of selling sunglasses, that we really could take the One for One model into another direction, we got really excited about it. To date, we've helped more than 325,000 people get their sight back, and that number is growing every day. It's such a significant thing when you see someone who is blind one day, and then 48 hours later they 're seeing their grandchildren for the ffirst time.
MP: Where have you traveled for TOMS Eyewear?
BM: TOMS helps to restore sight in 14 countries and I’ve been fortunate to visit vision camps in Nepal and a sight screening at our factory in Haiti.
MP: Can you share a rewarding experience you had on one of these trips?
BM: Ever since 2007, I've realized the TOMS One for One model could do more than give shoes. The loss of sight has a dramatic impact on a person's life and on his or her family and community. I’ve seenpeople begging on the street. The social workers told me they were once employed, but then developed a cataract and they could not work. It was a profound realization of a very solvable problem in developing countries (90 percent of people in the world who are visually impaired in the world live in developing countries).
MP: Any thoughts or comments you would like to have our readers take away?
BM: World Sight Day is coming up on October 8 and it's one of my favorite days of the year. It's a globally recognized day, which TOMS supports annually to raise awareness about blindness and visual impairment. I hope that on World Sight Day we can join forces to #GIVESIGHT to a person in need. There are 285 million people who are blind or visually impaired, and 80 percent do not have to be.