Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth — Rev Gerald Emmanuel, pastor of the Cambridge United Church in Brompton, 15 miles west of here, was smiling from ear to ear when the Jamaica Observer Central visited last Friday.
The reason for his delight was all around. The sanctuary of the church was spilling over with people as doctors, nurses and other medical personnel from North America kept busy doing free eye examinations and other tests and screenings, including of blood sugar and blood pressure.
That wasn’t all. The neighbouring church hall had been transformed into a processing, assembling and distribution centre for prescription eye glasses — all being done free of cost.
Friday, was actually the last day of a five-day eye care clinic, conducted by US-based humanitarian group Great Shape! Inc iCare in partnership with Sandals Foundation. Such clinics are done annually in Jamaica.
By Emmanuel’s calculation close to 2000 people including school children from Brompton and other communities in St Elizabeth as well as Whitehouse and neighbouring regions of eastern Westmoreland benefitted from last week’s clinic.
“I am overjoyed,” the pastor said. He noted that the eye care clinic followed a dental project in August/September also done by Great Shape! Inc supported by Sandals Foundation under the 1000 Smiles Programme.
As explained by Rochelle Forbes, public relations manager at Sandals South Coast, dental clinics took place over three weeks in August/September at the Cambridge United Church in Brompton, as well as in Whitehouse and Savanna La Mar.
Stephen Stern, programmes director of the Great Shape! Inc iCare programme, who has been visiting Jamaica since 2005 for volunteer health projects, told Observer Central that 46 volunteers from the USA and Canada were involved in last week’s clinic in Brompton.
The previous week, the iCare programme also ran a clinic in Duncan’s Trelawny.
“Over the two weeks of clinics we had 98 volunteers,” said Stern. “People are coming and getting full eye exams, blood sugar and blood pressure screenings… we check their eyes if they need glasses. If they do, they get tested glasses and everybody who comes through gets sun glasses,” he added.
According to a news release from the Sandals Foundation, eyeglasses and supplies distributed at the eye care clinics were donated through Great Shape! Inc; Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH); and Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre (LERC). Sandals Foundation provided logistic support, accommodation, transportation and meals.
Stern hailed the Sandals Foundation for making “it possible for volunteers to come and at the end of the day we don’t have to worry about our needs”.
He added that over the years since Great Shape! Inc iCare has been working with the Sandals Foundation more than 27,000 Jamaicans have benefitted.
The programme, also offers cataract surgery with 150 such surgeries done over the last few years at local hospitals, Stern said.
For Rev Emmanuel it was “just heartening to see the number of lives touched in keeping with the Church’s mandate which is to touch lives”.
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