Volunteering vital for community building
I recently saw an estimate by the World Health Organization that suggests that there are 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired. Although this is a staggering number, I was even more surprised to see that an estimated 80% of these cases were preventable. Almost 228 million people with diminished vision or blindness could have maintained their vision if the impairment was treated or prevented. As a consequence of underestimating the importance of eye care, people neglect regular eye exams and preventable diseases go unnoticed until it is too late and people lose one of their most basic senses.
These diseases tend to develop over the years and afflict more elderly patients. One organization that realizes the importance of vision and regular eye exams is EyeCare America which runs a program to raise awareness of age related eye diseases and make eye care more accessible. Their program Seniors EyeCare Program provides free eye exams to seniors who do not have access to ophthalmologists in their health care. The program runs on local volunteer ophthalmologists who accept referrals and treat seniors who may not be able to access eye care on their own. This is a great program that assists those who are underserved from volunteers willing to spare their time and resources to strengthen their community. This only makes it more surprising that there are currently no volunteers for this program in the New Brunswick area.
To compensate for this, we propose to contact local ophthalmologists and see if they are willing to help start up an EyeCare America program in our area. And as an added incentive, we’ll inform them of the local Timebanks that reward volunteer’s time with favors from other members. Timebanking is a relatively old concept, yet it is still an unfamiliar concept to many despite its success in countries such as Japan and China. By adding the incentive of joining the newly established Middlesex timebank NJ Strong, local ophthalmologists will be able to volunteer their time to help seniors and also receive a favor in return from other volunteers involved in the program. We believe this will be able to help start up an EyeCare America program in our area and with your help, we can further raise awareness of both these charitable programs.
Paul Malaran is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in biological sciences.