Thousands benefit from vision, oral health programme in St Ann

Monday, October 29, 2018

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GREAT Shape! Inc, a United States (US)-based non-profit organisation, continues to give thousands of Jamaicans brighter smiles and clearer vision through its free optical and oral health programmes.

Over 200,000 people have benefited from the organisation's 'iCare' and '1,000 Smiles' programmes, since the commencement of these in Jamaica.

The iCare project is in its 10th year, while 1000 Smiles volunteers have been offering free dental care for over 16 years.

Great Shape! Inc has also partnered with the Sandals Foundation to provide goods and services valued at US$8.8 million to Jamaicans.

As part of iCare's 10th anniversary celebrations this year, the organisers are providing free Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) surgery for open-angle glaucoma as well as argon laser treatment for patients with diabetic retinopathy.

The first series of surgeries were carried out at a free eye clinic that was housed at the Steer Town Methodist Church in St Ann, between October 15 and 19.

The overwhelming response from residents of Steer Town, surrounding communities and neighbouring parishes, kept medical personnel and volunteers from Canada and the US busy conducting eye examinations and other tests, including blood sugar and pressure screenings.

Programme Director for iCare Stephen Stern who has been visiting Jamaica since 2005, said several laser surgeries were conducted, some via referrals, noting that a number of the patients journeyed from other parishes to benefit from procedure.

He said laser surgeries will either prevent people with glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy from going blind, or delay blindness.

“This is our first year doing laser surgeries [and] we did [over 30]. When people have glaucoma, they have a lot of pressure in the eye. So with this surgery, we [have been able to] reduce the pressure… and save [peoples'] sight for many years,” he informs.

Stern said it is heartening to see the number of people who have been positively impacted, noting that this is consistent with Great Shape! Inc's mandate — to touch lives by re-shaping communities.

“The people here are so happy. This a very expensive service. So for them to be able to come here to get prescription glasses, sunglasses [and] reading glasses for free, you can just imagine [that they are grateful]… and a lot of people we have been seeing, have never seen properly in their lives. So when we put a pair of prescription glasses on… some people cry and [for] some people [you see] the big smiles,” the iCare director stated.

One beneficiary of the surgery, Eaton Daley, was all smiles after completing the procedure.

The senior citizen, who said he has been struggling with glaucoma for about six years, is grateful to the charity organisation for helping to save his vision.

“I am feeling [a] little better now and I am very thankful to them. I wish [others with challenges like mine] could come out and get the same treatment that I got,” Daley said.

iCare volunteer optician, Tom Hicks, who hails from Oxford, Ohio, USA, worked behind the scenes to build custom prescription glasses on spot for patients who visited the Steer Town Methodist Church.

Emphasising his being of service. The beneficiaries, Hicks said that “it's not what you do for yourself that will be a legacy… [but] what you always do for others that will be remembered”.

Over 71,000 pairs of glasses have been disturbed under the iCare programme since 2008.

Meanwhile, 1000 Smiles volunteers are working in Eltham, Ocho Rios, St Ann, providing free dental care to residents.

Dental hygienists and students from schools in the US, Canada, and University of Technology (UTech) have volunteered under the programme.

The services being offered include: fillings, cleaning, extractions, sealants, x-rays, and root canal procedures.

Final year UTech dental student, Paul Stanton said, under the partnership, he is able to give back to society as well as hone his skills.

“Great Shape really is great, in that it incorporates many dentists from across the world and as it is a practical field [whereby] we get [exposed] to different [inputs] and techniques… so we are able to improve ourselves,” he said.


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