An Eye Opener!
You can see the Atlantic Ocean from the roof deck at Rehoboth’s beloved and legendary Cultured Pearl. And if you’re standing with Victoria Sheffield, president of the International Eye Foundation (IEF) you can almost see the 11 eye clinics in Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Cameroon, and Egypt—and that’s less than half of the eye clinics operated by the IEF in developing countries across the globe, in Latin America, and Asia as well.
But the fact that you can see at all on this crystal clear June Sunday afternoon sets the stage for why the crowd has gathered. Victoria and the local Rehoboth Beach IEF volunteers that hosted the fundraiser (pictured here) did so by asking friends and neighbors in concentric circles to join them for an eye opening experience.
Folks from Bethany, Dewey, Easton and Lewes came from counties away to learn more about continents in need—and the wonderful work of the IEF. If your eyes glaze over at World Health Organization data, you just need to visit with the determined and focused Victoria. The 1.4 million blind children and 2.8 million with low vision will come into very sharp focus.
Approximately 90% of the world’s visually impaired people live in developing countries. And when it comes to consistent comprehensive care in the developing world, the eyes don’t have it. As you’re reading this, put Letters down and close your eyes for just a moment. Imagine how these blind youngsters feel.
Investments in eye care overseas are remarkably affordable. Dollars go a long way. For instance, River Blindness in West Africa—an affliction that’s directly linked to water quality, is preventable for 65 cents a pill. As Victoria puts it: “One pill. One person. Done. And preventing blindness enables a sighted young person the self sufficiency to learn, to grow, and to find work.”
I don’t know about you, but lots of time in my life, when I’m whining in my head about not having enough of “x” or as much “y” as I want, either a motorized wheelchair rolls, or a blind person with a guide dog walks, right in front of me. (So, you think you’ve got problems? Smack yourself!) Casual observance of the cultured crowd at the Cultured Pearl surfaced one startling journalistic fact: we are one lucky bunch of beach dwellers! And we want to help this cause.
Most of the volunteers and donors of the IEF got a good look at this organization because of a personal vision problem of their own. In their quest for medical specialty and information, they typically learn of the IEF and the more dire circumstances in the developing world—and they take action.
So hats are off to those who learn of—and take action because these eye-popping statistics of human need are so dire. When you’re shuttling from your city house to your beach house, deciding what medical specialist you might seek—a charitable donation that can buy buckets of 65 cent pills seems like a no-brainer.
U. S. Senator Chris Coons recently graced—and I do mean graced—CAMP Rehoboth with his presence on Memorial Day weekend at our Community Center. I thought at the time how cool it was to have one of 100 U.S. Senators here with us in tiny Rehoboth in small wonder Delaware. I wondered what the gay communities in the other 49 states were doing on Memorial Day?
After a witty and thoroughly engaging exchange about his solid record fighting for our marriage, military, and employment rights, someone asked a final question about schools and taxes. The senator answered the question forthrightly, and our Executive Director, Steve Elkins, closed by saying: “Thanks for that final question. We at CAMP Rehoboth are part of the larger community and our issues go beyond that of LGBT policies.”
Shortly thereafter, CAMP—or Creating A More Positive—Rehoboth, became a media sponsor for the IEF, part of our larger community, and the entire globe.
Eyes don’t have an “orientation.” Nor hearts. Ask anyone gay or straight at the Pearl that day: On a clear day you can see forever. But only if you’re lucky enough to see. And if you’re lucky enough to live at the beach, as artist Matty Adler says in his pop art paintings, “You’re truly lucky enough.”
Steve Elkins is right. We are indeed part of a larger community. Thanks to the Rehoboth contingent, it’s nice to think those underserved kids are able to gaze back at us from the far flung reaches of their communities a world away. For the fortunately sighted but unfortunately math-challenged: $65 will save 100 kids from river blindness.
If you’d like to help, visit the International Eye Fundation website.See you!
Brent Mundt makes a living in DC and a life in Rehoboth.