Can you think back to December 2, 2015? It’s hard to remember nine months ago, but December 2 was a Tuesday. And it wasn’t just any Tuesday; December 2, 2015 was GivingTuesday – the day our donors helped transformed the lives of thousands of students in Kenya!
Our goal for GivingTuesday 2015 was to raise $10,000 so we could screen 7,000 students in Narok, Kenya for eye health issues. Thanks to our amazing donors, we surpassed our fundraising goal! And even better: we were able to screen nearly 20,000 students in Narok!
Narok is a vast county in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley about 120 kilometres from the capital city of Nairobi. It’s a dry region, home to more than 850,000 people, many of whom are the nomadic Maasai people. In Kenya, far distances, high prices, and a lack of eye care workers and ophthalmic equipment make it difficult for people to access eye care. We’re bringing eye care to children in these hard-to-reach places.
Traditionally, we’ve worked with our partner hospitals’ community eye health workers to conduct eye screenings in target areas. However, because there are so few community health workers in Narok, we had to get creative! Our team soon realized the untapped potential of teachers.
In 2014, in partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, 53 teachers were trained to conduct eye exams, screen students for general eye health issues and raise awareness about the importance of eye health. They were also equipped with the tools needed to screen students and keep student eye health records.
Thanks to our GivingTuesday 2015 donors, these teachers were able to utilize their training and resources to conduct eye screenings at local schools. Children identified with eye health problems were then seen by an eye health expert, and those with minor eye issues were treated. Students who needed prescription eyeglasses or had more serious eye issues were referred to our local partner hospital, Narok District Hospital.
Our innovative approach of using trained teachers rather than community health workers led to cost savings. This means that we were able to stretch our donors’ contributions even further than we initially thought!
Our goal was to conduct eye screenings at 14 schools, and in the end, we were able to reach more than 40 schools in total! Each school received a health talk that focused on cleanliness and sanitation (hand- and face-washing are important steps in preventing the spread of blinding trachoma!), and students were provided with eye health information to take home and share with their parents or guardians.
In total, 19,986 students were screened and educated about eye health. Of those 527 students were treated for various eye health-related conditions, such as allergies, bacterial conjunctivitis and vitamin A deficiency. Three students received sight-restoring cataract surgery, and 25 students received new, custom-fitted prescription eyeglasses.
Thanks to our donors, hundreds of children can see! They’re now able to read, learn and prepare for their futures. In addition, schools now have the capacity to identify children with eye conditions and refer them for proper care.
Even better, thousands of students – and their families – now understand the importance of eye health and good hygiene. Not only are we restoring sight, but we’re also preventing others from going blind. With dedicated donors by our side, we CAN eliminate avoidable blindness! Thank you!