As UNHCR's longest-serving corporate partner, Japanese optometrist Akio Kanai has been providing spectacles to tens of thousands refugees around the world for some three decades, helping to improve their quality of life and prospects. On World Refugee Day 2013, the Nansen Refugee Award winner celebrated this long cooperation between UNHCR and his Fuji Optical Co., Ltd. by pledging US$1 million for the refugee agency's operations over the coming 10 years.
Doctor Kanai began cooperating with UNHCR in 1984, a year after starting his humanitarian optometry work in 1983 in Thailand with Indo-Chinese refugees, many of whom had lost or broken their glasses while fleeing. Many were undergoing courses ahead of being resettled to the United States and needed glasses to study. Dr. Kanai checked the sight of the refugees and, in doing so, started a long engagement with refugee work.
He has since conducted many humanitarian missions to help uprooted people in countries such as Nepal, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Aside from providing free spectacles, Fuji Optical has also provided optometry equipment, made cash grants and trained local medical staff. In 2006, UNHCR presented the Fuji Optical chairman with the Nansen Refugee Award for his outstanding service to refugees. He used the US$100,000 cash prize to assist refugees and internally displaced people in Azerbaijan and Armenia, countries where he has been helping victims on both sides of the conflict for almost a decade.
Fuji Optical is helping to improve UNHCR health and education activities worldwide, building on the company's core expertise and social values. Benefitting from UNHCR global reach and grass root implementation, Fuji Optical is transforming the lives of forcibly displaced people around the world.