Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Unite For Sight: Energy In Action

Some people may think that I am showing partiality by writing about some organizations more than once. But I do that because some organizations have so much going on, I think people need to know about it.

Unite For Sight is one of those organizations. I first wrote about Unite For Sight back in July of 2005 and I was very impressed with the organization then. I just received one of their newsletters last week, and they have so much going on I will not be able to talk about it all. I will give you their web site so you can see for yourself, though. In the meantime, I want to point out about a dozen of their projects in the works.

First, the are preparing for their Third Annual International Health Conference that is coming up in New Haven, Connecticut in April. This conference will convene over 600 people from around the globe who are interested in international service, global health, public health, and medicine. This will include: student leaders and activists, doctors, public health professionals, nurses, Peace Corp Volunteers, as well as others. The goal of the conference is to inform the public about health divides and empower them to develop solutions to improve access to care for the medically underserved. The public is invited and urged to participate in plenary sessions and breakout workshops

During the past 6 months Unite For Sight has sponsored 1,700 Sight-Restoring Cataract Surgeries. These surgeries were made possible by generous contributions of time and expertise as well as funding from both volunteers and donors. These sight-restoring cataract surgeries were conducted in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Now Unite For Sight's has set, as its Goal in 2006 at least 4,000 sight-restoring cataract surgeries.

Unite For Site has been successful in encouraging the academic community to support its efforts. As a result, Yale University funds Yale Students who volunteer for Unite For Sight. In 2005, Yale provided financial support for ten students who volunteered in Ghana. This year it will the university will offer 20 total internships with Unite For Sight. In addition to the Yale students who went to Ghana in 2005, additional volunteers participated in Unite For Sight's other country programs in Thailand, Honduras, and Sierra Leone. "Unite For Sight's student volunteers jointly participate with eye doctors on community-based screening programs. The clinic's eye doctors diagnose and treat eye disease in the field, and surgical patients are brought to the eye clinic for surgery. Unite For Sight helps to fund the surgeries for those patients unable to afford eye care."

This year, in addition to Yale, Mount Holyoke College will become an institutional supporter of volunteers participating in Unite For Sight programs. Mount Holyoke's Center for Global Initiatives has pledged to support one of its students in a Unite For Sight program in Ghana during Summer 2006. The student - to be selected through an application process - will receive full funding from the university.

Anyone interested in becoming a Unite For Sight International Volunteer for 2006 or 2007 should be told that positions are still available. These positions are open to both undergraduate and medical students, educators, nurses, and public health professionals, optometrists and ophthalmologists. The application can be found at:

Programs where positions are still available range from Spring of 2006 to Spring 2007 in India, Indian Himalaya, Western Thailand and Ghana.

Unite For Sight is still attracts the support of generous and innovative contributors. Smith Optics recently donated 700 Sunglasses and eyeglass cases to Sierra Leone through Unite For Sight. For those (like me) who did not know, Smith Optics makes highly regarded sunglasses and goggles (such as those used by skiers and snow boarders. This is why they are based in Sun Valley, Idaho. Smith Optics, Inc. was founded in 1965 with the creation of the first goggle featuring a sealed thermal lens and breathable vent foam. (And from what I understand that is supposed to be something they can be proud of.)

Over one billion people need eyeglasses in developing countries, but the excessive cost and lack of eye doctors are significant barriers. Smith Optics donated the sunglasses and eyeglass cases to Unite For Sight for distribution by its partner eye clinic "Southern Eye" in Serabu, Sierra Leone.

Those of you who read blog regularly may have read the article in November about The Buduburam Refugee Camp . There, refugees from the violence in Liberia have been sheltered at Buduburam in Ghana. Unite For Sight has volunteers from Liberia and Ghana who work in the camp to help with the other refugees in need. Unite For Sight tries to support, and seek support for the educational needs of these students.

Unite For Sight also tries to drum up support for refugee women at Buduburam who make eyeglass cases in order to generate income for the refugee community. The organization does this by promoting the financial success of communities by linking them to world markets. 100% of the revenues support the local community at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. This microenterprise program helps to create a sustainable program in which the local community can fund its own eye care expenses.

Unite For Sight in furtherance of its mission to eliminate preventable blindness has entered into an Eye Health Public Awareness Campaign through the use of Murals in Sierra Leone. They believe that this is crucial because prevention relies on proper education. Unite For Site's newsletter states: "After a city council member in Freetown, Sierra Leone asked Unite For Sight volunteers in a meeting 'aren't there any dangers to wearing sunglasses?', Unite For Sight, Peace Pals Education Network, and the United States Embassy embarked on an aggressive and ongoing public awareness campaign designed to convey basic messages regarding eye health.

With funding from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, Unite For Sight and Peace Pals Education Network painted twelve large murals with eye health messages in high-traffic locations throughout Freetown. Peace Pals National Coordinator Alex P. Columbus and Unite For Sight volunteer Natan Dotan designed and implemented the project. The murals were painted from September 1 - November 1, 2005 in collaboration with children from the Children in Crisis Orphanage in East Freetown. Many of these children are former combatants. Donald Venn, a Sierra Leonean artist and educator, helped to design the murals and worked with the children during the painting phase."

Unite For Sight has also implemented a cataract surgery program in Taiama Refugee Camp in Sierra Leone with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Unite For Sight is conducting another awareness program in Kumba Cameroon. There, the organization's Chapter is promoting vision education by producing weekly half-hour radio programs that began in late November 2005 and should run through March of 2006.

The main objective of this program is to inform the audience about the various diseases that cause blindness. It is hoped that the programs will also educate listeners on how to recognize eye disease symptoms as well as make people aware of preventive measures against eye disease.

Now, remember, I am just pulling items off of Unite For Sight's Newsletter. And this list is far from exhaustive of the contents of that newsletter. These guys are Energy In Action, so why don't you go to their web site and see all of the things they are doing at Unite For Sight .

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