Social Entrepreneurs Changing the World One Person at a Time

Dr. Aron Rose’s state-of-the-art office in New Haven, Connecticut is a stark contrast to where he was a year ago.

He says, “My wife, our three teenage daughters and myself went to Ghana last summer and were able to work in Accra, the capitol, as well as Tamale, a city in the north of Ghana, performing eye screenings as well as surgery,” said Rose. “And while I spent much of my time in the operating room, my wife and children were able to work in outreach clinics in small villages to do screening and find patients to refer for tertiary care.”

Rose volunteered with Unite for Sight, a non-profit organization working to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness worldwide. So far, the group’s four thousand volunteers have treated more than 600,000 patients. Unite for Sight started eight years ago when Yale University freshman Jennifer Staple was interning at an eye doctor’s office.

Staple said, “When I first worked at the eye doctor, I really saw a need. And then I really wanted to be able to create a solution to this preventable and avoidable eye disease. Eighty percent of all blindness is preventable which is a startling statistic.”

“It started as a very small idea and a small student organization at Yale for three years going into these community centers, providing basic vision screenings and matching people with free health coverage programs. And then, after developing this model for three years, I thought it would be terrific to begin to expand it to other universities within the U.S so that this successful model could begin helping people throughout the country,” Staple explained.

“And then within a few months we had about 25 chapters, and then quickly 50 chapters,” she added. “And then also began expanding the organization internationally where there is a huge need for eye care in remote villages and other locations where people have never been to a doctor and aren’t even aware that eye care exists for them.”

Andrew Klaber is pursuing a duel degree in business and law at Harvard University.

He says, “After my sophomore year of college, I decided that I wanted to spend some time in the developing world. I had an internship all set up in India. And then, two weeks before I was going to leave, Indian and Pakistani soldiers mobilized along the line of control (in Kashmir). Fourteen days later I found myself in northern Thailand. I did not know what I would do there. I didn’t speak their language. And I didn’t know anyone. But I saw, over time, I was spending 10 weeks over there, children, young girls walking around the night bazaar with older westerners, and realized this was sex trade right in front of my eyes.”

That experience inspired Klaber to found “Orphans against AIDS” in 2002. Since then, the non-profit organization has provided education and healthcare funding for children orphaned or otherwise affected by AIDS in developing countries.

Many young people across the U.S. -- like Klaber and Staple -- are taking on the challenge of becoming social entrepreneurs, by identifying pressing social problems and, using their entrepreneurial skills to develop innovative solutions to change society for the better.