St. Maarten Lions Club members and the visiting VOSH Team after the conclusion of the Lions Sight Project at the Belair Community Centre in May 2018.
PHILIPSBURG–World Sight Day, observed annually on the second Thursday of October, is a global event meant to draw attention to blindness and vision impairment.
It was originally initiated by Lions Club International’s Sight First campaign in 2000. It has since been integrated into VISION 2020 and is coordinated by IAPB in cooperation with the World Health Organisation.
The theme for World Sight Day on October 11 was “Eye Care Everywhere” and St. Maarten Lions Club President Carmen Lake is proud that the club could contribute heavily to sight awareness during the first half of 2018.
Lake said on Thursday, “The focus of our big Sight Project from May 14 to 18 this year was to test the eyes of all or most public schoolchildren in St Maarten at the Belair Community Centre, and those who needed glasses received free glasses right away or glasses shipped a few weeks later and delivered to each school.
“Our club hosted 17 doctors, nurses and technicians from Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) from all over the US and Alaska, who paid their own tickets to volunteer their time for a week in St. Maarten.
“With the generous sponsorship of US $24,000 from Hollywood Casino last December, the club paid for hotel, transportation and meals for the entire visiting group. The rest of money for the project came from various fundraisers during the year such as the Lion Wally Havertong Christmas Bingo and the Fathers Day Car Raffle.
“The VOSH team was assisted by students from NIPA as well. Additional expenses incurred by our club included renting the Belair Community Centre and providing bus transportation to and from school for each student.
“We really could not pull off that big Sight Project without the support from all of them, along with Immediate Past President Lion Alison and his board, the Lions Sight Committee and all members of the St. Maarten Lions Club who volunteered for the entire week.”
Sight Committee Chairman 2017-2018 Davey Woods, who spearheaded the project with a team of eight very active Lions Club members, was very satisfied with the support from all Lions, VOSH and NIPA volunteers during the project.
Woods said, ”Unfortunately, we did not get test all the schoolchildren, although we gave them every opportunity for an entire week to be tested. Some parents and children just did not cooperate and it’s a pity that it just might be one of them that really needed glasses to help them with their education.
“The support for the project by the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour and also the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports was also tremendous and the project received visits by Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo, former Minister of Education Jorien Wuite and Chairlady of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams who were all impressed with the project and volunteers that helped.”
St. Maarten Lions Club, VOSH and NIPA students tested 2,795 students and adults over five days at the Belair Community Centre: 2,549 schoolchildren and 246 teachers, Lions Club members, NIPA volunteers and a few parents who personally brought their children; 479 children received glasses right away and 198 glasses were paid for and FedExed to St. Maarten by VOSH three weeks later.
A grand total of 677 free glasses were given out to primary schoolchildren over May, June and July 2018. The final sets of glasses were delivered before the school term ended at the beginning of July.
Each child who was tested also received a pair of sunglasses that were shipped in advance by VOSH. The teachers, Lions Club members, NIPA volunteers and a few parents who needed glasses were given prescriptions which they could take to a local optometrist for new glasses. On the last day, after the project at the Belair Community Centre was completed, three schoolchildren who were hospitalised were tested by the VOSH team and Lions Club members at St. Maarten Medical Center.
Nine persons, seven of them primary schoolchildren, were referred to the local ophthalmologist with severe issues. St. Maarten Lions Club paid for the initial visit for all seven children and Sight Committee members accompanied them and their parents to the Ophthalmology Centre of Dr. Jean-Paul Cals in French St. Martin. The reasons for those referrals were exotropia, cataracts, amblyopia, keratosis, reduced vision, glaucoma and other health concerns.
The Lions Club is thankful that it could assist 677 children with free glasses in St. Maarten, as most had problems astigmatism and myopia (near-sightedness). As part of Lions Club International, the local club prides itself on being able to assist in eliminating preventable blindness and improving sight awareness.
Helen Keller challenged Lions in 1925 to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against blindness” and today blindness and its challenges are preventable thanks to the hard work of community service clubs and their members such as St. Maarten Lions Club.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/81575-lions-clubs-reflect-on-world-sight-day