Branson Senior Earns Heart of Marin Award for Service

Branson senior Sonia Chinai had someone in mind five years ago when she created EyeSightForAll, a non-profit organization that won a Heart of Marin Award earlier this month for providing vision care to the uninsured.

“In a low-income community just minutes from my home, the Canal, my friend spent a childhood forming tears in his eyes so he could use the droplets as a magnifier to see the board in class,” Sonia said. “That wouldn’t have been necessary if he’d had access to eye screenings and affordable glasses.”

To address this need, Sonia made delivering eye care services her passion.

She and her brother, Krish Chinai '15, used grants from the Youth Leadership Institute to set up free eye screenings, eyeglass prescriptions and long-term care in the Canal, working with local doctors, businesses, and other organizations.

 A retired optometrist taught Sonia how to perform a range of tests herself using a variety of charts and sometimes just her finger.

Over time, Sonia said, the services EyeSightForAll could offer expanded. In order to bridge language barriers, the organization partnered with 15 Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking volunteers from Next Generation Scholars, a college access program for students of color, working with them to obtain glasses and vision screening procedures for 200 people last year.
“It’s such a great program,” said Sonia’s advisor at Branson, math teacher Dave Reiter, who nominated her for the Youth Volunteer of the Year – Heart of Marin Award. “She’s done some incredibly positive things here and globally.”

In addition to providing vision aid locally, EyeSightForAll has collaborated with the Lions Club International, an organization that collects used glasses, to send spectacles to more than 2,000 people around the world.

Sonia and four others were selected as Youth Volunteers of the Year from 28 nominees by a panel of five student jurists at the 20th annual HOM award ceremony, sponsored by the Center for Volunteer and Non Profit Leadership of Marin.

“The depth and scope of the work of volunteers and nonprofit leaders in Marin County is truly astonishing,” said Linda Davis, CEO of the Center. “The awards give us all an opportunity to take time to acknowledge and celebrate the generosity that exists in Marin.”

In recognition of her generous work, Sonia and EyeSightforAll received an award of $1,000.

“I feel honored to have been recognized – I really owe it all to the Youth Leadership Institute that funded EyeSightForAll and all my friends that helped me set up the free eye clinics at Next Generation Scholars,” Sonia said. “I hope through the ceremony and the recognition, more people become aware of the lack of access to quality vision care.”