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Jennifer's Blog: Expanding Unite for Sight

  • Story Highlights
  • Unite For Sight began in New Haven, Connecticut, when Jennifer was at Yale
  • Today there are 60 chapters throughout North America, some overseas
  • Vision screenings can immediately lead to an appointment with an eye doctor
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By Jennifer Staple for CNN
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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) -- Jennifer Staple runs the Unite For Sight program which started in the U.S., but has branched out into working overseas.

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"At the same time I'm providing a screening in New Haven, other Unite For Sight volunteers are doing the same throughout the globe."

Regarding sight as a fundamental human right that most people take for granted, the program aims to tackle a range of visual impairments that affect people across the world.

Jennifer will be traveling to Ghana and then India, taking volunteers to continue the work of Unite For Sight. Keep up with her experiences in her blogs and video diaries.

September 24, 2007
For three years while I was a college student at Yale University, I organized groups of students to provide vision screenings in soup kitchens in New Haven, Connecticut. At the time, Unite For Sight was small, with a group of 35 student volunteers.

After graduating from college, I started expanding the organization to other college campuses in the U.S. Now, there are more than 60 chapters throughout North America.

I've taken part in numerous vision screenings throughout the U.S. and internationally, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I returned to the soup kitchens where Unite For Sight began. As I taped the visual acuity chart to the wall in the corner of the soup kitchen, I felt as if I had never left.

The soup kitchen itself was identical, although the faces of the people were different. I didn't recognize any of them.

All of the Unite For Sight programs in the U.S. begin with a visual acuity screening, then we match people with a free health coverage program so that they can get an eye exam by a doctor.

For this to happen, they need to dial a phone number. When I first started Unite For Sight, few, if any students, had cell phones. Now, student volunteers bring their personal phones to the vision screenings so that the soup kitchen patrons can immediately get an eye doctor appointment.

The Yale students involved with Unite For Sight are now of course a new group and their motivation trumps the enthusiasm of the organization's first volunteers years ago.

Now, students travel abroad to Ghana and India to provide eye care services. I am so proud to work with volunteers who demonstrate such dedication to improving eye care, both in their own neighborhoods and in countries foreign to them.

While I was at the soup kitchen for several hours, I marveled at how I felt as if I had never left New Haven. I feel gratified to know that at the same time that I'm providing a screening in New Haven, other Unite For Sight volunteers are doing the same throughout the globe. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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