Sybil Blau, News-Times Correspondent
Jennifer Staple has personality and smarts, but also focussed determination and a desire to help people. She's used both attributes as president and CEO of Unite for Sight, an organisation advocating eye care and eye care education, that she founded in 2001 when she was a student at Yale University in the United States.
Since that time the organization has grown to have an international non-profit presence in 25 countries. Its 90 chapters worldwide are using the volunteer services of more than 4,000 students, laypeople, physicians, lawyers, medical advisory boards, Web designers, graphic designers and corporate professionals. Their outreach has touched more than 40,000 children and adults. In addition to vision testing, volunteers have distributed 15,000 pairs of eyeglasses to children and adults, supported a cataract removal programme, and detected such illnesses as conjunctivitis and trachoma.
Unite for Sight creates volunteer teams, consisting of doctors and other professionals, as well as students. These teams provide intensive eye care and eye care education in virtually every kind of condition – refugee camps, orphanages, villages far distant from cities and cities themselves. "The length of stay depends on need," Staple said. "Sometimes, like in Ghana, there's a greater need for cataract surgery. In that case, the services are provided in phases. Last year, a Phase 2 team returned to Ghana to continue its cataract surgery work."
Staple recalled the joy and gratitude one older Ghanian man felt following his successful double cataract operation. "He was blind in both eyes from cataracts," she said. "After screening by a volunteer, he underwent a 15-minute procedure, in which the cataracts were removed and lenses implanted. He was so grateful for his restored sight, he gave the volunteer a chicken, a prized possession of his. Other patients show their appreciation with gifts of fruit."
For more information about Unite for Sight and its programmes, visit UniteforSight.org or e-mail Jennifer Staple at.