By Salma Mahgoub
A clear vision is what Babur Jahid has for his new social enterprise, and it’s also what he wants to provide for potentially thousands of visually impaired people.
The third-year biology and health sciences student at Carleton co-founded You See Clear in hopes of providing affordable vision care to developing countries, starting with his native Afghanistan next spring.
The non-profit has worked with partners to launch a clinic in Kabul where patients can access free eye examinations and glasses at a cost of about $5, according to Jahid.
“Vision impairment is, I think, the world’s biggest yet most forgotten health issue,” Jahid, who came to Canada as a refugee three years ago, said. “There’s a huge unparalleled demand that exists out there for these products.”
In Afghanistan, over 400,000 people are blind and 1.5 million are visually impaired. Establishing proper eye care facilities in the country would make about 80 per cent of these cases avoidable, according to the World Health Organization.
This year, Jahid was accepted as one of 11 students to be part of the first cohort of the Born Social Fellowship, which provided him with training on the basics of running an enterprise.
It’s also how Jahid met Rory Jipp, another student fellow who is pursuing a master’s degree in international affairs at Carleton. He is You See Clear’s executive advisor.
“I’m definitely glad that I’ve been able to get involved in this project,” Jipp said. “It’s always been a dream and a passion of mine to be able to use business and enterprise to be able to make a social impact.”
The fellowship was hosted by 1125@Carleton, the university’s social innovation hub that supports student entrepreneurs.
What sets Jahid apart from other students is his constant motivation, said Jenna Hobin, a community coordinator for 1125@Carleton, who watched You See Clear progress from an idea into an enterprise.
“Jahid is always out there looking for the next thing to take this a level higher,” she said. “He wants to surpass whatever goal he sets for himself.”
Since finishing the program in April, Jahid went on a three-month internship in Europe working at a social enterprise. He also represented Carleton at the One Young World summit, where he got seed funding as the winner of the Social Venture Challenge competition.
“I think the opportunities I’ve had in life are things that not a lot of students get,” he said. “But I think the fact that I went beyond that simply comes from my passion of doing something big for the healthcare system in my country.”
According to Jahid, You See Clear is now undergoing its first round of funding. The goal is to gain $20,000 in grants to cover purchases for the pilot project.
Jahid said he is currently trying to raise $6,000 with FutureFunder.ca, a university website that allows people to donate to projects and campaigns by students and faculty. The funding will be used to run the clinic inside one of Afghanistan’s busiest hospitals.
“That has taken a huge financial burden off our shoulders,” Jahid said. “Not only in terms of renting a space and being able to maintain it, but also in bringing people in.”
Once the pilot project is complete, You See Clear hopes to set up an independent clinic in Afghanistan. This would cost about $100,000 a year for the enterprise to build and run its own company. About eight people will be employed at the clinic full-time.