The Vision and Hope Clinics

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Somewhere today in the vast Sahara Desert of Morocco, a child, blind from corneal scarring caused by Vitamin A deficiency and measles, will perish from starvation. An indigenous Peruvian, severely vision impaired, will forego a trip to the eye specialist for treatment of of her glaucoma, for lack of bus fare, as she is slowly blinded by her disease. An African elder, his hair white with the dignity of age and his pupils white with mature cataracts, will die, his sight-restoring surgery never performed because he did not have access to eye care. Millions of blind people live in our world. They do not go blind by the millions. As the visionary, Sir John Wilson, blind himself, once said,"They go blind one by one, each in an individual and tragic way." The numbers are staggering: 37 million people blind and another 124 million with low vision. A total of 161 million are visually impared. One person goes blind every five seconds, on average, and one child goes blind every minute.

At least 75% of all blindness is either reversible, in the case of cataract, or preventable, as with trachoma and external eye infections, for example. Ninety percent of all new blindness occurs in the developing world. Most of those people are impoverished and have limited access to eye care. Most are adults, but millions are children. Who among us can condone the tragedy of childhood blindness that could have been prevented.

Legend Treks and its supporters believe it is an ethical and moral imperative that everything that can be done to prevent blindness and restore sight should be done. We realize we cannot help everyone in every country. Legend Treks has focused on three countries, Mali, Peru and Morocco. Therefore, the Trailside Community Action Program (T-CAP) will conduct its Vision and Hope Clinics in those same countries. The initial Vision and Hope Clinic will be in Mali.

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is bordered by seven nations and is bisected by the great Niger River. The climate is arid and desert. There are many ethnic groups in Mali, including Bambara, Mandinka, Fulani, Dogon, Songhai and Tuareg. French is the official language, but Bambara is the primary spoken language. Mali is a uniquely peaceful culture. They have a natural cultural concept of Diatigiya ("hospitality") and a joking system between former warring groups, that allows for incredible conflict resolution and day-to-day conviviality. The national government is stable and democratic.

Mali is the world's 3rd poorest country. It faces severe challenges in the area of public health. The national government spends a yearly average of $65 per person on health care issues. In the U. S. that figure is $5,274. Mali's gross national income per capita is $1,000. 72% of the population lives on less than $1.00 a day. One out of every four children die before the age of five. Average life expectancy is is 47.9 years. Only 65% of the population has access to safe drinking water.

Initially, Legend Treks will conduct Vision and Hope Clinics in an isolated region called Pays Dogon (Dogon Country). There are approximately 500,000 Dogon. Their home is in the central plateau sector on the edge of the Sahara Desert. It is one of Mali's major tourist attractions. At least ten different aide agencies have programs to help the Dogon. These programs assist in multiple areas of need, including hygiene, malnutrition, malaria, family planning, AIDS and infant mortality. Unfortunately, there are no current programs to assist with vision health. Legend Treks staff will travel to Dogon Country in April, 2010. The April trek will conduct an assessment of vision health in specific villages. Visual acuity will be assessed and those persons who would benefit from near vision aide, will be provided eye glasses immediately at no cost. Those persons who need more complicated care will be identified and their profiles will be placed in a data base which will be used to formulate a strategy for subsequent clinics. During April, meetings will be held with national, regional and local authorities, including the National Eye-Care Coordinator. These meetings will facilitate government approval and cooperation in establishing short-term and long-term goals for vision care in Dogon Country.

It is already established that future Legend Treks activities will require the participation of volunteer ophthalmologists, nurses, medical students and non-medical personnel. Legend Treks' Vision and Hope Clinics in Mali will lay the foundation for future Vision and Hope Clinics in Peru and Morocco.

Funding for the Vision and Hope Clinics will come from individuals, private business and groups such as civic and professional organizations. Donations are now being accepted on the Legend Treks web site, and can be made by utilizing the privacy and security of PayPal. All donations are tax deductible. Persons desiring to participate in Vision and Hope Clinic Treks are encouraged to contact Legend Treks via e-mail or by phone (501-743-5963).

Best Regards,
Larry Boyd Nutt

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