The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with visual impairments and reduce the prevalence of blindness through appropriate eye care. BCVI was established in 1981 and in its over 35 years of existence has developed a truly comprehensive eye service. It has successfully developed a range of services that support the needs of blind and visually impaired people whilst also actively working to prevent eye problems that can lead to blindness.
1981 to 1987
Founded as a committee of the Belize Red Cross
- Formed as an independent organisation.
- Registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee.
- BCVI fully supported by the Belize Red Cross during this period.
- Caribbean Council for the Blind provides support & staff training.
- 1984 – First full-time Coordinator on staff.
- 1986 – First Regional Field Officer (RFO) on staff, in Belize City, Belize District.
- HelpAge support for services for the Elderly.
1988 to 1990
New funding partners: Co-operation for Development, CBM and Canadian Grant
- Integrated Education for children introduced.
- Visually Impaired Club for older persons formed in Belize City.
- Database of Belizeans who are “legally blind” started.
- Two additional RFOs added: Orange Walk Town, Orange Walk District & Belmopan, Cayo District.
- Primary care activities throughout the country, including training for nurses.
- Book Production Unit created; Braille & large-print texts now published.
- Private sector employment of first Visually Impaired (VI) persons.
1991 to 1995
Sightsavers International gives direct support
- Eye-care training of Community Health Workers country-wide.
- Early Stimulation programme introduced in cooperation with Hilton Perkins.
- Second RFO added in Belize District.
- Prevention of Blindness Committee organised first national seminar.
- Low-cost production of eye-glasses started with Help the World See support.
1996 to 2000
Development of a Comprehensive Eye Care Service
- 1997 – First annual Summer Camp for VI children.
- Development of 3-year planning cycle.
- Agreement with Government of Belize and Lions Clubs Belize signed.
- Introduction of ophthalmic services.
- Advocacy group of young, blind adults formed.
- Computer technology & closed-captioned televisions introduced to assist VI students.
2001 to 2004
Expansion and consolidation of BCVIs Programmes
- In partnership with the International Centre for Eye Health & the Pan American Health Organization, BCVI & Sightsavers start the Glaucoma Project.
- BCVIs National Ophthalmic Unit renamed the National Eye Clinic, and a full-time ophthalmologist is employed to provide eye examinations, treatment & perform surgeries.
- Increased efficiency by moving the Eye Glass Lab to a recently donated building.
- Computer technology for students who are visually impaired expanded with the use of “JAWS” software & personal training.
- New funding options explored to ensure sustainability through the next planning period.
- BCVI celebrates its 25th Anniversary with a special photographic exhibition and a commemorative book sponsored in part by PAHO.
- We welcome Academy Award Winning Actress, Debra Winger, who visits BCVI through Sightsavers and is a guest at a fundraising dinner.
- The building known as our National Eye Clinic is expanded to now include the Primary Eye Care Clinic. This move has proven efficient and cost effective.
- Sightsavers decision to gradually withdraw support to the Caribbean ensures we work closer together on activities to increase organisational effectiveness and diversify BCVIs funding base.
- BCVI reviews policies and strategies to increase its sustainability.
- BCVIs former headquarters on Gabourel Lane were destroyed in a fire which prompted the move over to the National Eye Clinic on Princess Margaret Drive.
- With support from the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF), BCVI was able to expand the facilities in Belize City to accommodate the increase in patient demand.
- The LCIF and BCVI partnered in 2013 to expand the existing Diabetic Retinopathy Programme. This funding allowed us to acquire and install three fundus cameras for efficient detection of retinal changes in patients with Diabetes.
- In 2015 the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust launched the Diabetic Retinopathy Programme in the Caribbean which included Belize as one of four countries to be funded until 2019. This phase of the programme has allowed BCVI to include treatment for DR as part of
- Belize updated its National Health Strategic Framework (NEHSF) for 2015 – 2019. The Ministry of Health, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and BCVI finalized and signed off on the plan in 2016.
BCVI’s Comprehensive Eye Care Programme targets all aspects of visual impairment & blindness, from correcting refractive errors to integrating children who are blind into the school system.
Through the Primary Eye Care System, patients are seen by the optometrist and are given prescription glasses, if necessary. Should the doctor find a deeper problem, the patient is then referred to the Secondary Eye Care System and sent to the National Eye Clinic (NEC), where the ophthalmologist examines him or her. At the NEC, the patient can receive the appropriate medication as well as surgery, if necessary.
Not all eye problems can be treated; therefore our services go beyond the doctor’s office and into the clients’ classrooms and/or homes, through our Education & Rehabilitation Programmes.
The Education Programme prepares the child for classes by providing material for school as well as emotional support. This department at BCVI goes hand-in-hand with the Rehabilitation Programme in which trained staff members work with the clients in their daily environments to help get them accustomed to their surroundings in order to live more independently. This programme also involves the family members & friends who are trained in dealing with the client’s situation.
Along with working in their homes, we also assist our clients in seeking employment through our Job Placement & Employment Support Programme. We also offer extracurricular activities for our older clients, the Visually Impaired Club.
Whether a person is born blind or develops vision loss later in life, whether they are visually impaired or blind, we cater to all our clients’ needs and we work to ensure that no one is left without an option or an opportunity
The Lions and the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) have a long history of developing Eye Care Programmes to prevent blindness and restore vision. BCVI was formed in 1981 as an organization providing services for the Visually Impaired. In 1993 BCVI collaborated with the Lions to establish an optical lab to provide low-cost glasses and this was the start of the Primary Eye Care Programme. The Belize City Primary Eye Care Clinic (PEC) is managed and operated out of the Lions Building by BCVI which also operates four other PEC clinics strategically located around the country. In 2000, a Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) grant was received to refurbish and equip an operating room and an ophthalmological clinic in the same building. Today 5,000 patients are seen annually at the Belize City PEC Clinic and a long waiting list for examinations has developed.
The Lions of Belize and BCVI teamed up once again to improve the eye care services by expanding the Belize City Clinic in 2013 and again in 2015 with the addition of the National Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme. BCVI represented the Lions of Belize in 2017 at the World Health Organization’s Diabetic Retinopathy Conference in Geneva to showcase the impact of the national programme in Belize.
The Lions Clubs of Belize continue to partner with BCVI via the National Eye Clinic in Belize City as well as through monthly clinics in San Pedro, production of glasses for children identified through the Lions School Screening Programme countrywide and provision of cataract surgeries for those in need. BCVI and Lions will continue to work together to reduce avoidable blindness throughout the country.