Martin Guzman

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Martin Guzman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
In Venezuela, the traditional medical system has collapsed and has been replaced by a faltering state system, Martín ensures that every citizen has access to high-quality visual healthcare. Founded on the principle that such attention is essential to enable people, especially children, to participate as productive members of society, his citizen organization (CO), Lumen, awakens a widespread demand for visual care in remote and isolated communities. Rather than building a parallel system, Martín acts as a catalyst to integrate schools, the optometry profession, public sector agencies, and the public behind his initiative. By demonstrating that better visual care is a simple and effective means to improve performance in school and the workplace, Martín galvanizes the entire citizenry to participate in and promote his program.

Martín begins with the schoolteachers who have an influential role in the lives of the local community. With a model that requires few external resources and little cost, the teachers undergo a simple training to administer an eye exam to their students. After conducting the exam, children with diagnosed need are referred to specialists for corrective eyewear or specialized attention. This can all be done over the course of a few hours, and the children quickly show improved performance. The teachers become advocates for Lumen and start to spread the program around the community. Rather than teaching others to do the test, the teachers perform it on members of the community and school children every year. As the impact multiplies, people are empowered to not only take charge of the visual health of their families but also in their community.

For the 20 percent of children tested to have reading difficulties, Martín provides eyeglasses through volunteer optometrists and lens through the manufacturers as a way for them to comply with government-mandated corporate social responsibility programs. For those needing access to ophthalmologists and surgeries, Martín persuaded leading regional hospitals to provide them for free.

Once people become champions of Lumen, they pressure the municipal government and public health agencies to adopt its mechanisms into public policy. Martín hopes such popular advocacy will become the norm in other communities where Lumen operates, and for its program to ignite a transformation in Venezuelan healthcare policy at municipal, state and national levels in favor of comprehensive visual care.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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