FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EYE CARE “AMBASSADORS” BRING CLEAR VISION TO WORLD’S POOR

Mission team members from many organizations will gather in Houston April 4 and 5, 2003 at the 2nd annual Eye Care for All Who Care conference hosted by the InFOCUS Center for Primary Eye Care Development. InFOCUS is bringing together these eye care “ambassadors” to share experiences, enhance skills and spark plans to help the world’s neediest people. The conference will be held at Grace Presbyterian Church, 10211 Ella Lee Lane from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday April 4 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 5.

Despite the miracles of modern medicine, 1 billion people are functionally blind simply because they have no way to get eye exams and glasses. For them, eye care is too far from home or too costly. They live in areas outside the reach of medical services—in rural villages, refugee camps or blighted inner cities.

InFOCUS (Interprofessional Fostering of Ophthalmic Care for Underserved Sectors) is a Houston-based non-profit with a mission to help people gain access to basic eye care services. InFOCUS aims to improve vision and prevent blindness through education, appropriate technology and sustainable program solutions. InFOCUS develops practical, effective ways to make eye exams, glasses and other eye health services available to people in poor and remote communities.

InFOCUS trains medical volunteers to use the FOCOMETER, a portable, non-electric refracting device, to measure visual errors accurately and dispense the appropriate eyeglasses. Executive director Barbara Kazdan states, “Our mission partners are using the FOCOMETER in over 50 countries. They tell us that the training and equipment we provide makes it easy for them to add eye care to the services they offer.” Some mission teams return to the same area year after year. Many have left the device behind, training someone in the area to provide primary eye care year-round. Kazdan continues, “the circle of organizations using the InFOCUS approach has grown by leaps and bounds. We’re excited about bringing them together at the conference.” Guest speakers include Dr. Leonidas Johnson, Crystal Fountain Ministries and Holland Kendall, Kendall Optometry Ministry. Workshops will be led by Larry Spitzberg, Ph.D., O.D. and Dr. Ian Berger. Drs. Spitzberg and Berger invented the FOCOMETER and donated it to InFOCUS for the benefit of humanity.
Mike Trombley, president of Eye Deal Eyewear, Inc., will demonstrate Instant Eyeglasses at the conference. Mary Dipboye, an InFOCUS board member and mission volunteer with Houston-based Faith in Practice, notes “It’s great that InFOCUS has teamed up with Eye Deal Eyewear. On our trip to Guatemala, after determining a patient’s needs with the FOCOMETER, we assembled and dispensed a pair of Instant Eyeglasses on the spot. I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences at the conference, and getting some tips from other mission teams.”

Mission team leader Melissa Brown of the Grace Presbyterian Church, will present a keynote message. Inspired by the “Holy Vision” article in the Chronicle’s religion section some years ago, Ms. Brown attended InFOCUS training and has used the FOCOMETER and the InFOCUS approach to offer eye care on numerous mission trips to Mexico and Central America. Following one trip, Melissa wrote, “…all the ingredients for success were there: the Lord, the FOCOMETER, and the gracious villagers of San Cosme. To see lives transformed with a simple pair of eyeglasses—well, it is truly a humbling experience.”

InFOCUS began as an outreach project of the University of Houston College of Optometry and was chartered in 1995 as a non-profit with a mission to provide “eye care to all.” In Houston, InFOCUS launched a new program model, the Vision Station. Today families in 20 low-income Texas communities can go to their neighborhood Vision Station for free check-ups, eye health counseling, and referral to doctors for complete eye exams. If eyeglasses are prescribed, they can get prescription eyeglasses at a nominal cost at InFOCUS Vision Stations in Houston, Abilene, Matagorda County and Weslaco.

“InFOCUS works at home and abroad, wherever people need access to eye care,” states Dr. Ian Berger, director of the InFOCUS Center for Primary Eye Care Development. We are proud to be a member of the World Health Organization’s partnership committee of organizations working to prevent blindness. We are committed to the goals of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight, to eradicate unnecessary blindness by the year 2020. The Eye Care for All Who Care conference will help us move forward toward that goal.”

To register or for information, call 281-397-9162 or visit www.infocusonline.org $75 for first person from an organization; then $50 per person.
An introductory workshop on primary eye care and Focometry will be held April 25 and 26 iat the University of Houston College of Optometry. InFOCUS also offers training and planning assistance for organizations interested in starting a Vision Station.
Photos available on request.