Blindness and diseases of the eye take a terrible toll on the population of many African nations that are greatly underserved medically. In Benin, for example, there are five ophthalmologists for the entire country of 7.3 million people. In the refugee camp in Ghana where Unite for Sight is now providing services, there were no ophthalmologists for 77,000 people.
Preventing and treating blindness has been found by the World Health Organization to be one of the most cost effective health care strategies that exists. This is why Unite for Sight has rolled up its sleeves and tackled some of these problems in African nations and elsewhere in the world.
Ghana: Some of Unite for Sight's most impressive work has been done in Ghana and hailed as a 'great success' by Ms. Jennifer Staple, the organization's Founder, President, and CEO.
Unite For Sight, working in conjunction with the local NGO Ghana Health and Education Initiative, began Phase I of the program during June 2004 and concluded with Phase II during November and December 2004.
Fifty-six blind patients in Humjibre received sight-restoring cataract surgery, and additional patients were treated for glaucoma and other eye ailments.
One thousand pairs of sunglasses and reading glasses were also distributed to the community.
The cataract surgery was provided at the Cape Coast Christian Eye Center. Dr. Mark Whiting trained the Unite For Sight volunteers to screen for operable cataracts. The volunteers then applied their knowledge in Humjibre to identify individuals with cataracts and bring them to Cape Coast for cataract surgery.
The success of the recently-completed Phase II of the Humjibre, Ghana project shows the importance and effectiveness of Unite for Sight's efforts in treating and educating medically underserved populations throughout the world. The cataract surgeries were funded in part by a $500 YouthActionNet Award received by Jennifer Staple and by nominal registration fees raised at Unite For Sight's First Annual Conference in April 2004 and the organization's Global Partners Symposium in October 2004.
Unite For Sight received a grant from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support its innovative eye care program at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. In coordination with the local Liberian Refugee-run NGO "Self-Help Initiatives For Sustainable Development" (SHIFSD), Unite For Sight is implementing a comprehensive eye health program for children and teachers in the forty-three schools at the Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra. The first Unite For Sight Volunteer Team arrived at the refugee camp on December 28, 2004 to distribute eyeglasses, screen for eye disease and coordinate treatment at an eye clinic, implement eye health education programs for children, and implement a Train-the-Trainer program for teachers in the schools. The Unite For Sight volunteers were trained by ophthalmologists at the Christian Eye Clinic in Tema to screen for eye disease and prescribe eyeglasses.
Unite For Sight's program brings eye care to 77,398 children and adults living at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Unite For Sight volunteers screen for treatable eye conditions, including refractive error, cataracts, xerophthalmia, trachoma, river blindness, and conjunctivitis. In order to provide these much needed services, Unite For Sight has teamed with the local Liberian Refugee-run organization "Self Help Initiatives For Sustainable Development" (SIHFSD) and the newly established Christian Eye Clinic in Tema, Ghana.
Reports indicate that Unite For Sight's Volunteer Team has provided sight-restoring cataract surgery to 35 previously blind patients, and it is anticipated that by August 30, more than 500 cataract surgeries will be provided by the end of August. In addition to the surgeries, eyeglasses and sunglasses are being distributed to thousands of people, and volunteers are implementing eye health education programs for approximately 19,000 children and conducting Train-the-Trainer programs for 600 teachers throughout the refugee camp's 51 schools.
Tanzania: Just to mane a few of the things that have been done in Tanzania, Unite For Sight student interns have prescribed eyeglasses, distributed sunglasses, and educated 5,000 children and adults about myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, cataracts, glaucoma, vitamin A deficiency, trachoma, and river blindness. In Dar es Salaam, Mzizima, Muhumbili, Cambridge, Azania, Iringa, Mbeya, Mwanza, Arusha, and Nyamuswa eye Health Brochures were distributed in schools. A collaboration was established with the taMSA-Tanzania Medical Students' Association and with eye doctors throughout Tanzania to prescribe eyeglasses collected by Unite For Sight on an ongoing basis.
Unite For Sight's student internship programs in Tanzania were conducted in cooperation with The Malaika Project and Aiding Youth For Life.
Uganda: Unite For Sight student interns worked with the Uganda Village Concept Project and prescribed eyeglasses, distributed sunglasses, and educated children and adults about the prevention of trachoma and vitamin A deficiency.
Benin: For Sight. The Benin program began their summer 2004 initiate with a successful 4 full days of screenings for 300 people and is ongoing.
Malawi: Unite For Sight's chapter at University of Malawi College of Medicine includes medical students who are committed to improving eye health outcomes. The students implement eye health education and eyeglass prescription programs in schools and community centers.
Below is a list of the projects that Unite For Site has undertaken in several African Countries:
Pobe, Benin (Summer 2004, Spring 2005, Summer 2005)
Buea, Cameroon (Summer 2005)
Bibiani, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Buduburam Refugee Camp, Ghana (Winter 2005, Spring 2005, Summer 2005)
Humjibre, Ghana (Summer 2004, Fall 2005)
Ho, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Hohoe, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Kwawu, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Patriensa, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Nairobi, Kenya (Summer 2005)
Abia State, Nigeria (Summer 2005)
Freetown, Sierra Leone (Summer 2005)
Taiama Refugee Camp, Sierra Leone (Summer 2005)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Summer 2004, Summer 2005)
Nyamuswa, Tanzania (Summer 2004, Summer 2005)
Lome, Togo (Summer 2005)
Iganga, Uganda (Summer 2005, Summer 2005)
Karatu, Tanzania (Summer 2005)
Copperbelt, Zambia (Summer 2005)
In recognition of what determined young people can do, it must be said that Jennifer Staple founded Unite for Sight in 2000 as a sophomore at Yale University. For three years, the organization coordinated eye screening and education for the medically underserved population of New Haven, Connecticut. According to Unite for Sight's web site:
"In that time, a model program emerged. To reach more people in need, Unite for Sight started contacting university premedical advisors and student affairs offices with an invitation to start Unite for Sight chapters. Responses flooded in from students throughout the United States. Unite for Sight accepted chapter applications, provided training and manuals, and guided the growth of new chapters to implement vision screenings and education programs throughout North America and, eventually, four other continents.
"What started with a single volunteer has now grown to a force of over 4,000 volunteers working through 90 chapters, based at universities, medical schools, corporations, and high schools worldwide, and delivering eye care to over 400,000. Until February 2005, no Unite for Sight volunteer or staff member had received any compensation what so ever. This volunteer network is the backbone of our organization.
"Because of our overwhelming success mobilizing youth volunteers, Unite For Sight has been recognized for outstanding service by USA Today, Glamour Magazine, Nokia's and International Youth Foundation's YouthActionNet, Global Youth Action Network's Global Youth Action Award, Join Hands Day Excellence Award and the WK Kellogg Foundation. In recognition of our outstanding contributions to global public health, Unite for Sight has also secured financial support from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Cure Glaucoma Foundation, Alcon Foundation, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Gary Bialis Fund of El Adobe Corporation, Exxon Corporation, JP Morgan, and we have received a Healthy Vision Community Award from National Eye Institute.
"In addition to Unite for Sight's measurable impact, there is an equally compelling achievement. The organization has found a way to unite doctors, nurses, students, and other people, especially younger people, across borders, across economic status, and across professional lines. Unite for Sight mobilises groups and shows that anyone can become part of a global solution to restore sight and prevent blindness.
"Unite For Sight at a Glance
Number of International Volunteers Summer 2004: 12
Number of International Volunteers in 2004-2005 Academic Year: 16
International Volunteers for Summer 2005: 200
Number of Volunteer Teams Providing Outreach During Summer 2005: 43
Medically Underserved Persons Served Through March 2005: 140,000
Sight-Restoring Cataract Surgeries since June 2004: 165
Eyeglasses Collected and Distributed: 18,000
Unite For Sight Eye Health Brochures Distributed: 20,000
Number of Unique Visitors to Unite For Sight's Website Monthly: 35,000
"Unite For Sight's History
* September 2000: Founded by Jennifer Staple at Yale University
* September 2000 - May 2003: 500 Persons Screened Annually in Connecticut
* May 2001: Cure Glaucoma Foundation Grant From Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins
* October 2002: Feature in Glamour Magazine
* February 2003: Feature in USA Today
* June 2003: Expansion Begins in the United States; First new chapters in New York City and Boston
* July 2003: Medical Advisory Board Appointed
* January 2004: 1,500 Volunteers in 60 chapters
* April 2004: First Annual Conference Held At NYU School of Medicine
* April 2004: Eye Health Festival Event by all chapters in United States
* May 2004: First African Chapter in Guinea
* May 2004: Join Hands Day Eye Health Festival in New York City, honored with Join Hands Day Excellence Award
* June 2004: 2,000 Volunteers in 75 chapters
* June 2004: First Volunteer Teams Work in Benin, Ghana, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda
* June 2004: First Cataract Surgery Program in Humjibre, Ghana
* June 2004: YouthActionNet Award
* July 2004: Launch of Unite For Sight Online Eye Health Course
* September 2004: 2,500 Volunteers in 85 chapters
* September 2004: Global Youth In Action Award
* September 2004: OptiCare Inaugural Charity Golf Classic for Unite For Sight
* September 2004: Parent's Site Launched
* October 2004: First Annual Symposium
* October 2004: Make a Difference Day Eye Health Festival by all chapters in United States
* November-December 2004: Volunteer Team Works in Ghana
* November 2004: 5K Run/Walk for Sight in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
* November 2004: Teen's Site Launched
* December 2004: 4,000 Volunteers in 90 chapters
* January 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team Works at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana
* January 2005: Volunteer Team Works in China
* February 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team Works in Benin
* February 2005: Kid's Site Launched
* February 2005: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Grant for Buduburam Refugee Camp Program
* February 2005: Healthy Vision Community Award from National Eye Institute
* April 2005: Second Annual Conference Held at Harvard University
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in San Luis, El Salvador prescribes eyeglasses to 700
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in Nagpur, India screens patients and provides 30 free cataract surgeries
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in Cusco, Peru prescribes eyeglasses to 191
* May 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team in Danli, Honduras screens 1061 patients for eye disease and prescribes 800 eyeglasses
* June 2005: Volunteer Team in Chennai, India screens patients and provides 35 free cataract surgeries"
In addition to its work in Africa, Unite for Sight has also engaged in projects in the following countries elsewhere in the world:
Visit the web site of Unite for Sight
http://www.uniteforsight.org/ and marvel what Youth, Vision, Energy and Determination can do.