3 mins read | Creating Change

Could you make a pair of glasses last for 31 years?

Zambian female teacher Ms Konkola wearing 31-year old broken glasses.

Ms Bella Konkola is a primary school teacher, widow and mum of 4. Bella made the same pair of glasses last for 31 years. By getting a new pair at a Pala-funded vision centre this month, she was spared early retirement. Read on to discover Ms Konkola’s touching story.

From failing student to school teacher

In 1992, Ms Konkola was on the verge of dropping out of secondary school because her eye-sight was failing her – she could only see at arm’s length. Luckily, Ms Konkola was taken to Kitwe eye hospital where she was examined and prescribed spectacles. She went on to complete university and was later employed to work in the remote village of Zambia called Mafinga before being transferred to Chinsali primary school where she is currently placed… a local school to the Chinsali vision centre.

Severely broken prescription glasses that have been worn for 31 years before being replaced by Pala Spectacles.

Breaking point

Ms Konkola has had the same pair of spectacles she was dispensed 31 years ago. As expected, the glasses have broken several times over a 31-year lifespan and Ms Konkola has continuously glued them back together to be able to continue using them.

Why didn’t Ms Konkola get a new pair of glasses?

Bella was unable to buy new glasses over the last three decades because they were either too expensive due to a high prescription, or, she couldn’t find a hospital that had her prescription in stock.

More than just glasses

Ms Konkola’s career was in danger as her spectacles were failing her, making it increasingly difficult to teach and care for her students effectively. For many of us, especially in the UK, it’s easy to write prescription glasses off as ‘just glasses’ – but for Ms Konkola, they are a bridge between medically induced early retirement and the ability to continue providing for her family and imparting valuable knowledge to her students.

Zambian female teacher Ms Konkola smiling now wearing new prescription glasses dispensed at Chinsali Vision Centre

A happy ending

Chipo, lead optometrist at the Pala-funded Chinsali vision centre in Zambia is who has kindly recounted Ms Konkola’s story to us here.

They bumped into each other whilst at the general doctors. Chipo, stunned at the sight of Ms Konkola’s specs invited her to pay his practice a visit once she had seen the general doctor. She gladly accepted Chipo’s invitation, though perhaps a little dubious considering multiple failed attempts to replace her frames over the years.

Chipo examined Ms Konkola’s eyesight and made up a brand new pair of prescription glasses… and guess what? Her smile is back!

Ms Konkola is looking forward to bright future, getting back to teaching, and providing for her family with a smile on her face.

Optometrist at Chinsali vision centre cutting lenses to be fitted into a new pair of prescription glasses for Ms Konkola - local teacher.

What can you do to help more people like Ms Konkola?

For every pair of frames sold – you will fund 2 people being screened and treated in Zambia.

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If you’re not ready for a new pair of frames right now – you can donate directly to the Pala x Vision Action fund here.