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“InFOCUS Day” Celebrates New Vision Stations in Uganda

Rural villagers in eastern Uganda are enjoying new eyeglasses and year-round eye care thanks to a joint program of the Rotary Clubs of Houston and Mbale, Uganda. The Rotary Clubs teamed up with InFOCUS, a Houston-based non-profit, and Christian Eye Sight Rural Promotion (CRESP), a non-governmental organization, to establish Vision Stations in rural communities.

Houston Rotarian John Tuschman led the effort to obtain a matching grant from the Rotary Foundation for this initiative. Tuschman notes: “The goals are to improve vision, prevent avoidable blindness and promote health of impoverished children and adults in Uganda (East Africa). The larger aim is to establish a blueprint for similar projects anywhere in the world where people lack access to vital eye care services.” The grant provided equipment, eyeglasses and training. Tuschman adds: “This is a wonderful way for Rotarians to take part in the World Health Organization’s global campaign to wipe out avoidable blindness by the year 2020.“

Dr. Ian Berger, InFOCUS president, notes: InFOCUS Vision Stations are proliferating in Houston, in Texas, and in the developing world. Many more are needed.” Instead of giving away free eyeglasses, InFOCUS encourages local programs to sell the glasses at a nominal cost. Proceeds of eyeglass sales help to re-supply the programs and keep them open throughout the year. In Uganda, Berger observed that when word spread that new eyeglasses were available for the equivalent of $3 a pair, “People literally ran home for money. Soon a mob had congregated at the clinic, wanting eye exams and the opportunity to purchase new spectacles.”

Rotarian Kizito Waburoko, CRESP director, reports, “800 people have received new eyeglasses so far. The communities are happy with the programs. We commend the Rotary Club of Houston for bringing eye care services to the less fortunate in Uganda.”

CNN reporter Seema Mathur visited Mbale to show how quality of life can be improved for poor and remote populations through simple, but essential improvements in vision and eye health. Ms. Mathur noted: “Eyesight is considered as second in significance only to survival. Yet eye care has been almost non-existent for the poor.” The CNN broadcast shows the beginning of an approach towards the self-sustainability of community based eye care at Vision Stations. The broadcast will be shown at the Rotary Club of Houston’s “InFOCUS Day” meeting Thursday March 27 at noon at the Junior League Building.