The Rotary Club of Tahoe Incline has announced the conclusion of its $300,000 Health Hunger and Humanity Grant, funded in 2009.
The grant was designed to improve the eye care of the people of the Southern Rift Valley of Kenya.
Funding came from our Rotary Club, four other Rotary clubs and from Rotary District 5190. We were joined by Rotary clubs in Nairobi and the Rift Valley in the implementation of this grant.
The grant was administered through our cooperating organization, St. Mary’s Rift Valley Mission Hospital, over a period of four years.
Initially, the grant was used to purchase a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, two operating microscopes, two slit lamps, other eye equipment and materials for teaching classes.
Five classes lasting five months were held for registered nurses and physician assistants who wished to upgrade their diagnostic skills and treatment ability in the care of conditions of the eye.
Nineteen individuals have been graduated from these classes. The grant fully funded the education and living expenses of the individuals who attended the course.
These graduates were then located in outreach sites throughout the Southern Rift Valley. These sites are visited regularly by the mobile unit, based on the patient needs in the area.
More than 3,300 patients are now evaluated at the outreach sites and more than 4,300 at the centrally located hospital on an annual basis.
The most serious problems encountered are blindness caused by cataracts in older age groups. A blind person incapacitates a second person, usually a child, who then is unable to attend school.
The program is now restoring sight to more than 300 persons per year blinded by cataracts. Most recently, we have added phaco emulsification equipment identical to that used in developed nations for treatment of cataracts.
In addition, the program dispenses eye glasses and treats other minor conditions with surgical procedures. Two children with congenital forms of blindness have been placed in the national school for the blind in Thika.
Poverty in the area was more extreme than anticipated. Most patients are unable to afford the cost of their eye care. Based on Rotary principles, no patient has ever been turned away because of lack of funds.
The eye care for the poor is mostly funded through a charitable organization founded by the Rotary Club of Tahoe Incline that is fully tax-deductible.
Kenyans from the Nairobi area have also contributed significant funds for the care of the blind in the area. We anticipate that the program will now be self sustaining and self supporting.
Sixty-five dollars will cover the cost of restoring sight to a person blinded by cataracts. Anyone wishing to donate to this program may send a contribution to our tax-deductible 501(c)3 St. Mary’s Mission Hospital of Kenya Foundation to Bob Hartsfield, P. O. Box 6374, Carnelian Bay, CA 96140.
Wend Schaefer, M.D., is president of the Rotary Club of Tahoe Incline.