EyeCare4Kids has always had a vision for providing eyecare for children and families beyond Utah. For example, this August will be the 19th year that the team has visited the Four Corners area to serve the Navajo reservation. These early and consistent efforts in Arizona and Nevada have helped the staff “cut its teeth” outside the clinic. Today, EyeCare4Kids is expanding its reach across Africa.
Joseph Carbone, founder of EyeCare4Kids said, “Our goal is for EyeCare4Kids to help a million people a year outside of the United States. If a child can’t see, she can’t learn. If she can’t learn, she can’t get out of poverty. Sight is a critical component of education and getting out of poverty.”
In 2014, Joseph and eyecare friends visited Laos for the first time, partnering with LDS Charities and two hospitals to perform eye exams and surgeries, and teach local medical professionals about the latest eyecare tools and techniques. In a week’s time, EyeCare4Kids helped 2,800 people. Dr. Carbone donated the equipment and the remaining eyewear to the hospitals.
One of the next trips was to Rwanda with Nancy Uslan, in partnership with the Indiana University School of Optometry. The group of volunteers and medical professionals went into the local mountains, visiting schools attended by children of local gorilla tour guides. They treated the students and then donated the equipment and extra glasses to hospitals in the area.
In December 2021, Joseph conducted a similar trip to Mali, Africa where they treated over 1,000 people, and again left the equipment and remaining pre-made eyeglasses with a local hospital.
Joseph has also taken annual trips with two ophthalmologists from Las Vegas to Kalimoni Mission Hospital in Kenya. Prior to COVID-19, the hospital had given a building to EyeCare4Kids for a local clinic, but the opportunity fell through during the pandemic. Since then, a new building has been constructed and efforts are in motion to officially open an EyeCare4Kids clinic, run by the archdiocese, later in 2022.
Joseph noted, “We will work through the hospital to raise money to help staff the clinic with local ophthalmologists and optometrists. As part of the Site the World initiative and partner 1-800 CONTACTS, the clinic will offer the ability to do refraction using mobile devices, a technology recently acquired by 1-800 CONTACTS.”
A local lab will make the glasses or EyeCare4Kids will supplement the glasses and cover shipping to the hospital.
“There are a great number of people on African continent who need eyecare,” said Joseph. “In the three African countries we have been to so far, there is one ophthalmologist for every three million people. We want to grow our ability to help more people with telemedicine and the medical technology and mobile apps that are available. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities and progress for our EyeCare4Kids clinics in Africa.”
In related news, EyeCare4Kids non-government organization application was submitted to the United Nations, and approval is expected by the end of 2022.
Stay tuned for more details about EyeCare4Kids growth across Africa.