Testing Eyesight Of The Poor In South Africa, Soon Zimbabwe To Provide Better Vision For Everyone Who Needs It


Overlanding with a Noble Purpose – Helping People See the World

Dealing with vision impairment can be tough, especially if the problem was not dealt with. This issue affects over two billion people in the world, and almost half of them have never addressed the problem or have never prevented it. While some people have the possibility of getting care, the more unfortunate families living in remote areas have no way of getting proper help for the issue affecting their eyesight. 

South Africa has several cases of this kind, with a lot of children dealing with vision impairment. This is why a team of compassionate overlanders decided to take their activities to South Africa, where they could combine their love for overlanding with a good act. 

Even though June 2021 was not easy in terms of COVID-19 restrictions as many regulations were in place, Anton Poplett couldn’t be stopped. Taking his Land Rover Defender 110, he was joined by his wife, 7-year-old daughter, as well as cameraman Cam Stuart and optometrist Karl Dannenberg on a trip to South Africa. Their mission was clear: they would test the vision of a large number of children, and if they detected any poor vision, they would provide them with glasses. It wasn’t easy, but they were more than determined to follow this plan.

Delivering Vision, Overlanding With A Purpose. Image Credit - Aaron Poplett

Delivering Vision, Overlanding With A Purpose. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett

A Journey Full of Obstacles

The team was already aware of the severity of COVID-19 restrictions, but they did not expect the other obstacles. Now, of course, they knew what they were getting into when they went to South Africa, but the probability of meeting with giraffes on the road is still not something you expect to happen to you. 

Karl and Anton’s plan was to go to schools and put their plan into practice. Luckily, they are skilled overlanders, so they could rely on this and their equipment. They faced a few challenges, such as the rough roads, many divergent routes, and deep dongas. In order to cover 30 kilometers, they would sometimes have to drive in second gear for an hour and a half. 

Primary School in Botswana where some of the testing took place. Image Credit - Aaron Poplett

Primary School in Botswana where some of the testing took place. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett

But that was not all. While they were heading to their destination, they encountered a herd of elephants. Of course, they had to wait for them to cross first. Afterward, they encountered two giraffes on the road, which somehow picked that as the best place for a fight. 

Despite the minor inconveniences, they had some fun too. Not only did Anton’s daughter enjoy walking around and picking up different souvenirs like bones and stones, but his wife also had a great time admiring the dust in the air after dusk or feeling the buchu bush smells. 

The Eye Testing Team. Image Credit - Aaron Poplett

The Eye Testing Team. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett

Delivering Vision to Over 2000 Children

Anton and his team had more than 2,000 children to screen in five days, and while that sounds almost impossible, they did their best to succeed. To make sure no children remained unscreened, everyone on the trip participated in the process. 

The testing was done using the Global Vision 2020 kit, which starts with the usual eye chart test. This one doesn’t have letters or numbers though. It only includes fingers in the air in the correct direction, either down, up, right, or left. 

The next part was the self-diagnosing lens kit and everyone who was found with poor vision had to use it. Children had to use a pair of glasses that resembled sunglasses, only that they had long clear lenses that looked like rulers and some large white knobs on each side. Then, the patient had to turn the knobs, allowing the lenses to move up and down in front of their eyes. When they could see clearly, they had to move to the next step. 

Vision testing in Botswana. Image Credit - Aaron Poplett

Vision testing in Botswana. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett

The last part involved a color-coded system. It allowed participants to choose the right lens for every eye, and then fit them into frames. This enabled several happy children to see better. 

Not all young children were confident in the testing from the get-go, and it’s not unusual considering they didn’t know what this group of strangers wanted to do. Luckily, there was always someone familiar to them who was able to give them an explanation. 

Children were not the only ones tested, though. A few adults, like teachers, were also tested and received glasses, but children were the focus. 

In the end, the group was successful and over 2,000 children were screened. What’s even better is that the attention of the participants helped them discover a condition known as keratoconus in 10 of the children. The condition is sight-threatening, but once the diagnosis was confirmed, the team was able to offer the right treatment. 

The easy snap together glasses, given out to those whose eye tests have revealed a need. Image Credit - Aaron Poplett

The easy snap together glasses, given out to those whose eye tests have revealed a need. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett

The Bottom Line

Nothing could stop the team from achieving their purpose, whether it was COVID-19 restrictions or even giraffes fighting in the middle of the road. In the end, Anton and the other overlanders not only had a great experience, but they also helped a lot of children and offered them a chance to see better. Hopefully, more overlanders will unite for such noble causes.

About The Overlander Making This Possible:

Anton Poplett is a hard-working South African. His drive in supporting people on his African continent grows daily as he sees the need for sustainable development with local communities that are in dire support of basic necessities.

Vision as we all know is a global pandemic and easy for a city dweller to be tested but not in the rural regions.

He’s developed his overlanding rig for long hard touch drives that are not common to get to so he can help these people. He builds and works on his rig as best he can and has become quite knowledgeable when people ask for help.

Banner Image: Anton Poplett By The Customized Overlander. Image Credit – Aaron Poplett


Ferenc Elekes

Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.

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