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Mar 11, 2015

B.C.V.I. In Jeopardy From New Competition

The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, BCVI, a non-profit organization established in 1981, has been assisting the underprivileged by providing optometric services at reduced prices.  The income derived from those services account for roughly fifty percent of BCVI’s annual revenue, monies which are reinvested in its daily operations.  Tonight, however, there is a feeling of unease as Courts (Belize) Limited prepares to make its foray into the business of optometry.  News Five understands that the countrywide department store will be launching an eyewear division in May and it remains unclear how sales will affect BCVI’s existing market.  Over the years, the organization has founded and developed a series of initiatives through its fundraising efforts, including an annual summer program.  The concern is that the competition’s popular payment plan will adversely affect BCVI’s bottom line, jeopardizing its various projects.

 

Carla Ayres-Musa

Carla Ayres-Musa, Deputy Director, BCVI

“BCVI has always catered to people who can’t afford private fees.  So we do have a market and we do, our purpose is to help people.  So not being able to charge massive amounts of money, you know, in order to compete with anyone else opening up and providing the same services has always, you know, been one of our concerns.  But it’s also been the way that we operate and the way we will continue to operate.  We want to be able to have someone walk in and not being able to afford glasses and can still get.  Unfortunately, with Courts opening an optical shop and we already know the type of offers that Courts has, and from what we understand it’s going to be along the same lines, it does pose a threat to our financial situation.  We are, at the moment, and I can tell you one hundred percent, over half of our income that we need to survive as a non-profit comes from the sale of glasses.  We needed to up that by another hundred thousand this year because our main funder discontinued their funding because they moved out of this region and that is how much we’re short.  So knowing that someone else is opening up is going to take away what we are already making and we need to now be concerned not only with the sale of glasses but the fact that a sale of a pair of glasses is contributing to other people buying glasses, people who can’t afford them getting them.  People who can’t afford a cataract surgery walking in and saying, “look  I don’t have money, I can’t afford it” and we say, “don’t worry, we got you.”  The people in our rehab program, you know, getting devices or getting home visits to help them maneuver around their home, one pair of glasses helps with all of those things.  So knowing that we’ll be out even one pair of glasses makes a huge difference.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This now forces you as a non-profit organization to re-strategize, in terms of the way forward?”

 

Carla Ayres-Musa

“Definitely.  Re-strategizing is kinda going to come along once we’ve opened up and we see exactly how it is affecting us.  We have always, because we’re a non-profit, relied on fundraising as well to help with our programs and that is something that we will continue doing but also to ensure that we’re not compromising the quality of what we’re giving and the service that we’re providing, we definitely need to reassess and to look into how we’re going to handle the loss.”

 

This is a story that we will continue to follow.

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