Improving lives with better vision
Geographically, Norway and Fiji would seem to have nothing in common, yet they are intricately linked with eye care projects. When Kirsten and Lars Iversen started their eyewear company – Karmoie – in 2010, their goal was to create a brand that was also committed to sustainability and social issues. This visionary perspective connected Karmoie to Eyejusters, and now the Norwegian brand donates corrective glasses to people around the world. The project had great appeal to Kirsten and Lars, with the realisation that there are approximately 700 million people who live without the glasses that they truly need. These circumstances can result in poorer education; restricted work; lost opportunities; and an estimated global economic loss of over £200 billion per year. (Top image: Lars and Kirsten Iversen)
The association with Eyejusters has enabled Kirsten and Lars to work on projects in Morocco and Uganda, plus travelling to South Sudan and Fiji to see first hand how the clinics work. They have discovered the experience to be inspirational; invigorating; heart-warming; and emotionally rewarding as well. “We have interesting stories,” related Kirsten, “like when we were on one of the smallest islands in Fiji, and met a woman who had broken her glasses irreparably a few years ago. She hadn’t been able to see an optometrist and get new glasses, so she tried to manage without. To see the emotion on her face when she could see again with glasses was really moving.
“On Cicia in Fiji, we worked with teenagers, and one girl wanted glasses, but didn’t need them. She tried to fool us during the eye test! She was hanging around the compound, so we asked her to help us out as an interpreter. She was smart, kind and graceful, and the patients responded really well to having one of their own be such an active part of the eye care team. We were able to shift her desire for her own pair of glasses, into an interest for eye care and performing vision tests.” Kirsten and Lars noted that in South Sudan and Fiji, the logistics, infrastructure and access are the main challenges. The Eyejusters system is easy to teach, and that has motivated local aid workers to pursue more eye care training.
“To Lars and I, gratitude and giving back go together. Honestly, knowing how blessed you are without wanting to show generosity in return feels shallow. We wanted giving back to be an intrinsic part of our product, rather than dependent on our financial success. We donate one pair of corrective glasses for every pair of Karmoie frames or sunglasses we sell. Creating your own company and starting up can at times, be quite exhausting. The fact that we can feel good about what we do, and how we give back is invaluable when it comes to motivating us to push through when it gets tough.”
Karmoie designs are created in Norway – in an Oslo atelier – inspired by beautiful, crisp, Nordic nature and Scandinavian minimalism. Karmoie was awarded the Butterfly Mark, a prestigious acknowledgement powered by Positive Luxury, for their commitment to protect the planet’s resources. www.karmoie.com JG