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Unite for Sight - volunteer-driven eye care in North America and four continents

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 1 month ago

Unite for Sight - sustainable, volunteer-driven eye care in North America and four other continents

Yale University student Jennifer Staple founded Unite for Sight in 2000, and during the next three years, as the group coordinated eye screening and education for the medically underserved population of New Haven, Connecticut (where Yale is based), a model program emerged that has since spread throughout North America and then to four other continents to great acclaim.

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 screening and education programs to more than 600,000. Unite For Sight has sponsored 11,712 sight-restoring cataract surgeries. Working with partner ophthalmologists, Unite for Sight has provided thousands of people with treatment for infections, glaucoma, pterygium, and refractive error, and has collected and distributed more than 350,000 eyeglasses. Sixty thousand people visit its website each month.

Unite For Sight implements vision screening and education programs in North America and in developing countries. In North America, patients are connected with free health coverage programs so that they can receive an eye exam by a doctor. In Africa and Asia, Unite For Sight volunteers work with partner eye clinics to implement screening and free surgery programs.

All programs are tailored to the needs of each community through sustainable solutions that reduce health disparities and build the capacity of the local community by boosting incomes through entrepreneurial skill building for blind patients and their families. An educational scholarship fund enables the children of blind patients to attend school, and blind patients are helped to develop small businesses so that they can support their families. "Recently, at a refugee settlement in Ghana, we were worried about how Ali, a father who is permanently blind from retinitis pigmentosa, could support his family. His sight loss was irreversible, and there was no way of telling how he would continue to care for his three children and his four orphaned nieces and nephews. We worked with Ali to establish a business selling clean water so that he could generate an income and contribute to his family's long-term health and well-being."

Unite For Sight also organizes an annual international health conference for the exchange of ideas about eye care, international health, and social innovation. Open to the public, an audience of 900 from 5 continents attended the Third Annual Conference at Yale University in April 2006. The Fourth Annual Conference will be held on April 14-15, 2007 at Stanford University School of Medicine.

This story was prepared from information found on the Unite for Sight website. I learned about the organization from a column written by Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times, commenting on a number of social entrepreneurs he met in Davos, Switzerland in January, 2008.


For more stories related to eyesight and blindness, see:

'Vision entrepreneurs' solve blurry vision while making a living

Benin is an ongoing success story in eliminating endemic river blindness

First adjustable prescription eyeglasses offer hope for developing world

Indian eye care centre crusades against unnecessary blindness in the developing world

One man's vision brings affordable cataract surgery to the developing world

Successful Tanzanian trachoma treatment offers hope for nomadic communities

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