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On a recent afternoon, hundreds of children in powder-blue uniforms jostled one another in the courtyard of a high school in Panipat, two hours north of New Delhi. The students, all from poor families, were having their eyesight checked by VisionSpring, a nonprofit group started by Jordan Kassalow, a New York optometrist who helped set up EYElliance, which works with local governments to distribute subsidized eyeglasses in Asia and Africa.

For most, it was the first time anyone had checked their eyesight. Roughly 12 percent were flagged as having weak vision and sent to an adjacent classroom where workers using refractor lenses conducted more tests.

Shivam, the boy who dreamed of being a pilot, walked away with a pair of purple-framed spectacles donated by Warby Parker, the U.S. eyewear company, which also paid for the screenings. “Everything is so clear,” Shivam exclaimed as he looked with wonder around the classroom.

Ratan Singh, 45, a sharecropper who recently got his first pair of reading glasses, said he could not imagine living without them now. Standing in a field of ripening wheat, he said his inability to see tiny pests on the stalks of his crop had led to decreasing yields. He sheepishly recalled the time he sprayed the wrong insecticide because he couldn’t read the label.

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