Fund-Raising Project Envisions a Better Future for Cambodian Schoolchildren

One photographer’s campaign aims to provide eye care and glasses for more than 1,000 children in the region.
(Photo: Malu Veltze)
Nov 9, 2015· 2 MIN READ
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

A pair of glasses could mean the difference between dropping out of and staying in school for some 1,400 Cambodian schoolchildren who can’t afford basic eye care in their rural villages.

That’s where Malu Veltze comes in. The photographer is working to help provide eye exams and glasses for more than 1,000 students and their families in 12 villages near Siem Reap. The 22-year-old is on a timed mission—24 hours, to be exact—to raise $20,000 so these children have the chance to lead improved lives with a better sense of vision. The fund-raiser ends at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

“Giving glasses to these kids is not only helping improve their vision in school, but it prevents them from developing further eye problems,” Veltze told TakePart.

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As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $5,000.

Malu Veltze visits with students. (Photo: Ryan Doyle/Crowdrise)

The photographer’s campaign is part of a project series created by the online fund-raising website CrowdRise that demonstrates in real time how crowdfunding can help individuals around the world make positive changes in underprivileged communities. The 24-hour projects completed thus far have already raised about $100,000 for worldwide causes.

Veltze was first introduced to the project series while traveling for work in Nepal. The Bolivia native previously photographed disadvantaged communities in her home country. She connected with Mallory Brown, a partner on the project, and the two decided to meet in Cambodia, where they realized the focus of their campaign.

Self-help community center. (Photo: Ryan Doyle/Crowdrise)

Veltze and Brown were inspired by the story of a girl named Channa, who had to drop out of school in sixth grade because her family could not afford a pair of glasses, which cost about $40 in Cambodia.

“We learned that none of the children in her village can afford eye exams, and many of them are in need of glasses,” Veltze said.

From left: Sinon, Veltze, and Shreypao. (Photo: Ryan Doyle/Crowdrise)

An estimated 19 million children under the age of 15 are visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization. Although the rate of visual impairment has decreased in the last 20 years, there’s still a drastic need for eye care services in many developing countries around the world—Cambodia being one of them.

Channa is almost blind in her right eye. When Veltze held up two fingers from a few feet away, Channa couldn’t tell her the number of digits.

“I can’t imagine how Channa is living a life without being able to see five feet away from her,” said Veltze, who happens to wear glasses and comes from a family with a history of eye problems. She realizes now how fortunate they were to afford eye care services.

If Veltze meets her funding goal, Channa will be given a pair of glasses that could improve her vision by 40 percent.