Professor Brien Holden of the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science and his colleague from South Africa, Professor Kovin Naidoo, have been jointly awarded the Schwab Social Entrepreneur Award for Africa 2010.
Through their work with the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), the two have been key figures in efforts to tackle avoidable blindness and vision impairment on the African continent. The award was presented by Professor and Mrs Schwab in front of business and government leaders at the recent regional World Economic Forum in Tanzania during the Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum on Africa
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is a not-for-profit, independent and neutral organization, founded in 1998, which aims to advance social entrepreneurship and foster social entrepreneurs as an important catalyst for societal innovation and progress.
Professor Holden, who heads the Vision CRC, singled out the efforts of ICEE and Professor Naidoo: "To have been considered to have done something useful for the people of Africa is a great honour, one that is rightly deserved by the people from ICEE - and from optometry around the world who support them - who make a difference to vision care, blindness prevention and new opportunities for so many," he said.
"To be awarded Social Entrepreneur for Africa for 2010 encourages every person working in vision care and blindness prevention. For the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum to recognise the importance of vision in this way is extraordinarily helpful. It will encourage all of us in eye care and NGOs working to prevent blindness to continue to try to create sustainable solutions that have a real effect on people's lives."
ICEE was established by Professor Holden and colleagues in 1998 to address the need of 670 million people worldwide with uncorrected refractive error and consequently blind or vision impaired because they don't have access to an eye examination and a pair of the glasses. It was recently renamed the Brien Holden Vision Institute and is Located alongside and affiliated with the School of Optometry and Vision Science on the UNSW campus.
By engaging with local governments and communities, providing training programmes and helping with infrastructure development and ensuring a reliable and affordable supply of equipment, ICEE builds sustainable eye care systems in communities in need. Professor Naidoo established the first African office in Durban, South Africa. It now has offices in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria and implements its programmes in 10 African countries.
Stephanie O'Connell Director of Communications
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