Big Smiles at Little Earth
By the time Riko walked into a Helen Keller vision clinic in Minneapolis earlier this year, her usual pair of glasses were of little use to her. The lenses were badly scratched, and her prescription needed to be updated.
“It’s hard to prioritize my own health when I’m so busy taking care of others,” says 48-year-old Riko. She currently provides full-time care to her youngest child, who has cerebral palsy, and three of her grandchildren. Following a setback in her job during the COVID-19 shutdown, Riko was forced to give up her home and move in with her elderly mother at the Little Earth community.
“I enjoy living here at Little Earth because they really care about their residents. They do their best to make sure we all have what we need. Hosting the Helen Keller vision clinic is a great example,” says Riko.
Reaching the Vulnerable
Little Earth, the first urban housing complex in the country to give priority to American Indians, provides a range of social, educational and cultural programs to community members in south Minneapolis. Across the country, nearly 80% of Indigenous Americans now reside in urban areas rather than on reservations; this means losing access to government funds traditionally designated for tribal entities. Even basic medical and vision services are out of reach for many.
“I enjoy living here at Little Earth because they really care about their residents… Hosting the Helen Keller vision clinic is a great example.”Riko
Thanks to generous donor support, Helen Keller covers all costs associated with our clinics at Little Earth, including vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses; outreach, marketing and promotional materials; and any shipping costs associated with the delivery of glasses.
Filling a Need
And need is high: At an event last January, 70% of the community members who participated did not pass their screening, compared with 25% of students reached through our school-based programs in Minneapolis. In addition, nearly 20% of individuals seen by our optometrist at Little Earth were referred for further treatment due to pre-existing conditions and more severe eye health issues.
Since 2019, Helen Keller’s vision team has screened approximately 165 members of the Little Earth community and provided nearly 100 pairs of prescription eyeglasses.