Verde Valley School is an IB Boarding High School in Sedona, AZ with students from 25 nations. They have been working in Malawi, Africa since 2006. In 2012, Caroline Diehl, the Millennium Development Goals Program Director for VVS, wanted to expand the scope of the VVS projects in Malawi and teamed up with the Sedona Oak Creek Canyon Lions Club to begin doing free eyeglass clinics in Malawi. Dr. Serge Wright and Randy Crewse, Lions for numerous decades, had been supporting eyeglass missions in Honduras and Nicaragua for years. The partners reached out to several Lions Clubs in Malawi and found a willing partner in Dr. Khumbo Kalua of the Lions Sight First Eye Hospital in Blantrye. Verde Valley School students and local Lions went immediately to work. Lion Dr. Serge Wright, owner of Sedona Eye Care, donated his offices and equipment to be the hub for eyeglass processing. He taught the Verde Valley School volunteers and Lions to use lensometers to read prescriptions and the gathering, cleaning and sorting of glasses for Malawi began. Dr. Wright also convinced VSP Optics and Zeiss Laboratories to manufacture 24 pairs of specialty glasses for severe vision impairment based on Dr. Kalua’s prescriptions. These were for children who had been learning by Braille because
the eyeglasses they needed were not available in Africa.
By June of 2012, the Verde Valley School students were off to Malawi, at their own expense, carrying 400 pairs of glasses valued at more than $68,000. A truly meaningful and life changing social responsibility project was underway. According to Iona Swift, VVS Class of 2013, “The eyeglass clinics in Malawi were a really beautiful manifestation of global community and service. Every pair of glasses I handed out and every smile from the person I handed it to was a reminder of humanity’s true potential: ultimate efficiency, creativity, and compassion.”
The Sedona Oak Creek Lions and the Verde Valley School student volunteers have continued their partnership. In June of 2013, they combined their efforts with VSP, Zeiss, and March On to deliver not 400, but 2500 pairs of glasses to Malawi. Fifty pairs of specialty high-powered prescriptions for severely impaired children were brought over in 2013. They also recruited the help of the Zomba Lions Club to expand the reach of the free eyeglass clinics from Blantyre north into Zomba, where thousands of vision impaired people all arrived for help. In 2014, another 3000 pairs of glasses were brought to Malawi as well as 115 specialty low-vision glasses from Zeiss for severely vision impaired children and clinics were again held in Blantyre and Zomba.
Dr. Kalua, Dr. Owen Mkangadzula and Dr. Desire Munthali, and the other members of the Lions Eye Hospital, are instrumental in setting up the various free clinics. They choose areas where there is a great need and access by children is a priority. The free clinics are open to adults and children in need. VVS students and Lions get intake information and do preliminary screening. Those that fail this screening are sent on to see the various eye doctors present to get a full vision screening. After it is determined what prescription they need, the VVS students and Lions find and dispense the appropriate glasses.
Work has already begun to bring another 2500 pairs of glasses to Malawi to be dispensed in June 2015. The Lions Eye Hospital in Blantyre, the Blantyre Lions Club, Zomba Regional Hospital, and the Zomba Lions Club have committed to teaming up with the Sedona Oak Creek Lions Club and VVS again this summer.
Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center: Mission Report
Name of Organization: Sedona Oak Creek Canyon Lions Club (Dr. Serge Wright – Lions Coordinator for Malawi, Nicaragua, and Honduras) and Verde Valley School (Caroline Diehl – MDG Program Director for VVS and Malawi Mission)
Location/Country of Mission: Malawi, Africa
Mission Dates: June 7-July 2nd – free eyeglass clinics on June 26 and 27, 2015
Total number of individuals served during mission: 3500
Total number of individuals fitted with eyeglasses: 3300
Number of Lions Club members on mission: 2
Did you have any unused glasses? No
Comments/suggestions: Keep up the incredible work that you do! You were able to get us much needed glasses very quickly and they are packed neatly and safely and we couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this.
Photos: Will be attached to several emails I will be sending after this since they are large files.
Submitted by: Caroline Diehl