We are Francesca and Nelly. It is our mission to make custom artificial eyes more accessible to people in need. We need your support to help people get back into their community, work and life by providing them with an artificial eye.
In particular, we wish to empower and return autonomy to people in developing countries who have lost their eyes. In many places, especially those with inadequate healthcare, social stigma and superstition cause people with disabilities to live with extreme ostracization and shame. We have even heard of cases where women have been mutilated by men in power so that they will no longer be an acceptable ‘wife’ and therefore no longer fit into society.
Ocularistry is a very niche profession on the cusp of the optical industry. It describes someone who hand-makes prosthetic eyes for people who have lost theirs due to disease or trauma.
Artificial eyes are made completely by hand out of the same material as false teeth. It is a complex and fastidious process steeped in tradition. It involves many steps of casting, fitting, adjusting and hand painting colours and details to match the patient’s fellow eye as seamlessly as possible. It typically takes 2-3 days to make one eye.
There is no curriculum for this profession in Australia or in many parts of the world. Because of this we reach out and connect with industry legends all over the world who love the profession as much as we do and who are excited to share their knowledge. We have a plethora of international ocularist gurus who have nurtured our skills and knowledge thus far. We have trained and made eyes in the UK, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. These work and education trips have been completely self funded so far but we want to share the eye-love with even more people in places of need.
We have just returned from a five month work trip in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, where we made prosthetic eyes in a mix of public hospitals, private clinics, and even backyards. It was in these places that we discovered the truly great need for our profession.
We met a woman who had not taken her microphthalmic child (born with under-formed eyes) out of the house for the first four years of his life because she was worried about what her community would think of her. She did not know that a prosthetic eye was even an option for her child. It is often believed that if a child is born with a disability it is because the mother has done something wrong or the family is cursed and it is best to avoid them for fear of catching the curse.
We heard of a man who had 9 children pass away from retinoblastoma (an aggressive form of cancer of the eye usually in children) because he refused to accept the reality that the only form of treatment was to have the eye removed. He was scared of the impact on himself and his family if he were to have a child with a visible disability.
We have seen first hand how ocular prosthesis can help patients and their families navigate through the already difficult decision to undergo treatment and to offer rehabilitation to those who have or have suffered from trauma.
This campaign will allow us to set up a clinic in Nairobi, Kenya, which is home to Africa’s largest ‘slum’, Kibera. We have ongoing plans with a hospital, and only need this funding to make this clinic a reality. In this clinic, we will provide face-to-face training for a local staff member for 6 months or longer. We will teach them to make ocular prostheses, and how to operate, stock and run a clinic so that the practise is sustainable and can carry on into the future. This will provide sustainable and affordable support and services to the people of Africa. While we are providing this on site training we can navigate through any environmental, economical or cultural obstacles specific to the area as they arise.
We have also been offered an opportunity to train in the 3rd biggest hospital in the world alongside world renowned ocularist and facial prosthetist, Jorgen Cieslik, where we will learn to make artificial sockets, noses and ears, which we may be able to realise depending on our funding.
We have self funded everything so far ($50000+), and we will continue to do so if necessary, but we could do so much more with your support.
Your support will not only provide someone with an artificial eye but it will enable them to return to their community, school, work and life! Your donation will go towards purchasing machinery, materials and equipment to set up a prosthetic eye lab. Your contribution will help local staff to upskill in a much needed profession and provide for their communities. Your support will also help to reduce stigma surrounding disabilities and blindness. You will be helping us in our endeavours to further our education and continue to pay it forward and share that knowledge with others.