ACCRA, Ghana (CNN) -- Jennifer Staple runs the Unite For Sight program which started in the U.S., but has branched out into working overseas.
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.
November 8, 2007
I have been developing and coordinating Unite For Sight's programs in Ghana from the U.S. since 2004, so it has been a great privilege to finally arrive in Ghana to meet the patient beneficiaries and the local Unite For Sight team.
I have been spending much of my time with our ophthalmic team in Accra. Robert Dolo and Kartee Karloweah are ophthalmic nurses and medical staff at the Crystal Eye Clinic, which is Unite For Sight's partner in Accra.
They are extraordinary people, working six days a week to provide eye care for patients living in extreme poverty, waking at dawn and working until sunset, often examining 150 patients per day.
Each day that I am with Robert and Kartee in the villages, I marvel at their dedication and efficiency. Having heard stories about them from our partner ophthalmologists and visiting volunteers, I knew that I would see their greatness in action while in Accra, but personally seeing their selfless dedication and commitment to Unite For Sight was even more extraordinary than I had anticipated.
Unite For Sight vision screenings are held in very remote locations, where patients have no access to eye care. Their health needs are beyond comprehension, as raw sewage often flows through the streets and running water is nonexistent.
A small area is organized for the vision screening, which includes a series of screening stations. Visiting Unite For Sight volunteers and local Ghanaian translators work to register patients, identify their eye care needs and provide visual acuity screenings.
Then, the patients move into a very small, dark room where Robert and Kartee are stationed to provide examination and diagnosis. They need to work in the dark so that they can see the back of each patient's eyes.
Often more than 100 degrees (Fahrenheit or 37.7 Celsius) in the room, Robert and Kartee rapidly examine each patient and determine whether they need medication, eyeglasses, consultation by ophthalmologist Dr. James Clarke or surgery.
If the patient needs medication or eyeglasses, they move to another station that is usually manned by local and visiting volunteers. If the patient needs surgery, Unite For Sight arranges for them to go to Crystal Eye Clinic.
Living in extreme poverty, the patients can barely afford food, so they cannot afford the price of surgery, which is usually $100. Unite For Sight sponsors their surgery to insure that no one remains blind because they can't pay.
Through September 2007, Unite For Sight has coordinated and funded more than 1,200 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in the Accra, Ghana region.
The success of the program can largely be attributed to the remarkable work of Robert and Kartee in the villages. It has been an extraordinary privilege to meet them and to see their work making such an impact. E-mail to a friend