California - Be Able to See (With Your Heart)

When Yash Gupta broke his glasses in taekwondo practice, he realized just how much he relied on them.


His prescription was so high that he had to wait a whole week to get a new pair.


"I just couldn't see anything," said Gupta, now 17. "I couldn't see in the classroom; I would get easily distracted. ... Just basic stuff I used to do every day, I couldn't do."


Gupta's blurry week led him to discover something that he wanted to change. He saw on the Internet that more than 12 million children worldwide don't have the corrective eyewear they need (PDF).


"It's just a total disadvantage for them, because (if) you can't see anything ... you definitely can't make the most of the education you're being given," he said. "It would be impossible for them to fully achieve their potential.


"I had this problem for one week, but these kids have these problems for their whole lives."


So at the ripe young age 14, Gupta started Sight Learning, an organization that collects used eyeglasses from optometrists and donates them to organizations that deliver them to children in need.


Since 2011, Gupta has donated more than 9,500 pairs of glasses, worth nearly $500,000, to young people in Haiti, Honduras, India and Mexico.


It wasn't so hard finding glasses to donate. "I found 10 to 15 pairs just lying around the house in random drawers," Gupta said. After approaching local optometrists and recieving a positive response, he was well on his way. 


In the past three years, Gupta has traveled to India and Mexico several times, where he not only provides glasses but also helps doctors and volunteers at eye clinics.


Those who work with him see his young age as an asset.


"He works hard and has great initiative, but more importantly, he brings such great energy -- and that sets the tone for everyone," said Dr. Greg Pearl, president of the California chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.


Gupta sees being in the field is the best part of his work.


"That dazed look the first time (children) get glasses, and just seeing that turn into joy and happiness ... it's just really inspiring," he said.


Helping others motivates Gupta, whose family immigrated to the United States from India when he was just one. 


"We had a really tough time adapting," Gupta recalled. "I (am) sympathetic to people who (are) struggling."


Rightly so, Gupta has gotten a lot of attention for his work, including being honored at the White House in July. But he says other people his age are also finding ways to give back.


"I think there's a misconception with our generation," he said. "Many of my friends are doing things to improve their communities.


"Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It's just matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that."



Source: CNN