Local service clubs partner to support eye care project in Peru, seek community contributions
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
The Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout and the Sioux Lookout Lions Club have partnered to support an eye care project in Arequipa, Peru, and are asking community members to donate gently used eyeglasses for the cause.
Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout President Tara Drew shared, “It is an opportunity for our service clubs to work together, get to know each other, and support a population that has no accessible and affordable eye care.” She added, “We are truly blessed in Canada through our health system that recognizes the importance of eye health. Regrettably, Peru is not the same. The Peruvian government offers healthcare but not eye care.”
Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout Treasurer Susan Barclay shared, “As the Lions Club is known for its interest and expertise in eye care, the Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout thought that they would be the best organization to partner with to collect glasses for a worthy cause.”
Sioux Lookout Lions Club President Chris Larsh said that sight-related projects have been a long-standing focus of their club. Amidst the pandemic, part of their ongoing project of collecting eyeglasses from around town, and supplying them to places in need, came to a partial halt. They now have somewhere to send the collected eyeglasses, added Larsh.
“We have collection boxes, we have one at the Seniors Centre, we have one at the local optometrist, couple more around town, and people who know that they are there, and people that go to the optometrist see that the box is there, they know that they can just drop off their used eyeglasses, and then they are not taking up room in their house. To me, it’s a shame to throw something like this out, but I know that that happens as well because people just don’t realize that there is a recycling program for them,” said Larsh.
“They are not going to get the prescription right on, like we are, but it will still be such a difference for them...it will be like Christmas Day to some of these people who just cannot get eyeglasses,” added Larsh.
Drew shared that the rural communities surrounding Arequipa are impoverished, substantially limiting access to eye care. “People cannot afford to travel into Arequipa for care, nor can they pay for glasses or exams at an optometry store. The high altitude of the Andes, with low oxygen levels and high levels of radiation from the sun, results in specific eye health issues such as increased rates of cataracts and pterygium (a growth on the sclera of the eye).”
Aiming to outfit a mobile ophthalmology van to go into rural Peru, providing eyeglasses and performing eye health exams for those in need, Drew shared that the Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout successfully applied for a Global Grant from Rotary International. This was in partnership with the Rotary Club of Arequipa Primavera, Peru, District 5480 in Texas, and Medical Ministry International - Peru.
Barclay shared, “My hope is that two great service clubs in the community will be able to raise some funds for our local Lions Club, while we collect glasses for the project. The Lions Club fundraising has been greatly affected by COVID and the loss of their fireworks display on Canada Day due to the construction at the town beach.”
Barclay shared that COVID permitting; they are hoping to conduct a drive-thru BBQ event on July 1, from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., with more information to follow on Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout and Sioux Lookout Lions Club Facebook pages. She added, “The BBQ will help raise funds for the Lions Club to continue its work and to collect glasses. The glasses will be sent to Hamilton, Ontario first for cleaning and prescription grading before being sent to Peru and places in need.”
Barclay shared, “I am proud to say that our club, between club funds and private donations was able to substantially donate to this project. Between the project clubs, including assistance from the Rotary Club of Dryden, and the districts involved, and with matching funds from local District 5550 and Texas District 5480, and Rotary International, the budget of approximately $48,000 US was met.”
“If I can help somebody, then I should help somebody. I think that we are in a position of just people having eyeglasses lying around and they would love to have something to do with them, and to put them in the hands of people that need them,” concluded Larsh.