Clinic Blog: 2011 Gambia Clinic Blog
July 1, 2011
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.
~Henry David Thoreau
For anyone who participates on a OneSight clinic, the hardest day is the last day.
In The Gambia it is hot and humid, hot and humid every day – an almost unimaginable heat. In The Gambia the sun is unforgiving in its intensity and one can almost feel the rays reaching out and pricking the skin. Our clinic site was part cinder block walled shelter with a corrugated tin roof that at times served as a blanket ensuring that the heat would not escape. The doctor lanes were in in concrete rooms with an almost suffocating still air. The dispensing area was in the dirt, under a tree that provided a circle much needed shade. For Team Gambia it was one of the best places in which we will ever work…… but our bones and muscles are sore from this less than less hospitable climate along with a less than hospitable bed.
In Gunjur our connection with the volunteer team was quick and full. They became our friends and our teachers – we always learn more from the volunteers they learn from us. Email addresses are exchanged and a piece of your heart is captured by their smiles, and their sad faces as we leave. In many clinics the volunteers are from a privileged class – in Gunjur their privilege ends with their knowledge of both Mandinka and English, today they are back to village life in a home with no electricity and no running water. The needs in Gunjur are overwhelming and we know we cannot help with them all. The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation will cause hundreds to become sick from diseases that are extremely rare or no longer exist in the western world – cholera, malaria, polio, meningitis. The last day is an emotional day, we know we will probably never again see our friends, we know there is so much more that needs to be done, and so it is and extremely hard to say goodbye.
Team Gambia had some difficulty arriving en-masse as is the tradition for a OneSight cliic team. Another unusual occurrence was that 6 of our team were in the far away village of Farafenni for the first week of our time here. And yet, despite all of this we became an instant team and quicly built strong friendships. The word family is quite overused to describe everything from a corporation (“we’re glad to have you as part of the xxxx family”), to sports teams, and on and on. So, to call Team Gambia a family seems almost too trite, too cliché. What we have is something special and something that we will probably never experience again. Not all of the bonds created in this little piece of Africa will last forever but we are truly fortunate to carry this experience with us as we arrive home and go forward with our lives. Abaraka!
When we leave tomorrow our friendships expand in a tangled web from Winnipeg to Milan to Cincinnati to Charlotte to West Palm Beach to Calgary to Detroit to New York to Banjul to Tuscon to Los Angeles, to Chicago to Dallas to Cleveland to Sydney to London to Gunjur to St. Louis to San Francsico to San Diego to Buffalo to Yorkshire…….. That’s a lot of longitudes and latitudes.
July 1, 2011
Our main clinic in The Gambia is at the Medical Center in Gunjur, a village of about 15,000 people in the southern part of the country near the Atlantic Ocean. The village is a tangle of unpaved roads lined by walls of cement and cinder block. Behind the walls are a series of compounds that house extended families who work together to manage through the needs of everyday life.
Gunjur compounds do not have electricity (the health care clinic is operated with a gasoline powered generator). They do not have plumbing, running water, refrigeration, etc. What is in abundance in Gunjur and its walled compounds is a sense of community. The locals refer to The Gambia as the “smiling coast” and one quickly appreciates the simple altruism that permeates throughout the village.
For the people of Gunjur every ach day involves what we consider backbreaking and mind numbing work; fetching water, hand washing clothes, a mile long journey to the garden for seeding, weeding, watering and reaping. Each individual has a role and task to perform. Almost all of the work within each compound is assigned to women; the men are out looking for work and based on what we see there is very little work to be found. This is their culture and at times it is difficult for many of us to reconcile the contraditon of being a community and understanding that in the minds of the people of Gunjur fairness and equality apparently are luxuries that cannot be afforded if the community is to survive.
As with many less advanced countries, in The Gambia the sense of time is completly lost. To say that Gambians are not a time fixed people is quite the understatement. On the trip back from the clinic the bus driver may decide to make a 20 minute stop to purchase firewood for his family, an 8:15 departure for the clinic might be 9:00, food ordered in a restaurant may arrive in 5 minutes or perhaps 20 minutes - one can never be sure. For time fixed westerners this can be quite an adjustment. That being said, some of Team Gambia have found that there IS one time that is set in stone - happy hour ends at 6:30 sharp - not 6:31 and the end is determined by the bartenders watch not the out-of-towner's smart phone.
July 1, 2011
OneSight and Sight Savers in the Gambian Newpaper – Copy and paste the link below to read a local story from The Point about how OneSight and SightSavers are helping Gambians obtain vision care services.
June 27, 2011
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. While in The Gambia we are working with SightSavers International to build a sustainable clinic. Here is how it works:
Step One: Sight Savers International has worked with local providers in The Gambia to develop a clinic to provide the EyeCare services. Our OneSight doctors have been working in an oversight capacity this week to ensure the local team is trained on pathology, refraction, etc. Patients receive an EyeExam from a clinic in the towns of Farafenni and Gunjar. The patient receives a prescription and they also receive any treatment or referrals they need to correct diagnosed pathology.
Step 2: The glasses are made for the patients in a brand new lab created by OneSight. While we are in The Gambia, our OneSight team are training local Gambians on the processes and techniques for making glasses to fit the patients’ exact prescriptions. The lab is run by Mama – she has many assistants to help with long term needs of the local population.
When we depart on July 2, we will have helped develop something that is sustainable – the locally trained optometric and lab teams will continue to provide these much needed services for years to come.
June 26, 2011
For the first 5 days of clinic we had a split team in The Gambia. 6 of our teammates (Andrea, Cindy, Renato, Tim, Doug, Connie) traveled to the rural village of Farafenni to work in the local hospital. Some might call it a land that time forgot, others might say it is unspoiled or untouched, Adrea’s word for Farafenni is “special”.
The community of Farafenni does have some of what we take for granted in our everyday lives, electricity (although somewhat sporadic), plumbing (not in a Western sense), cars, buses, etc. The community does not have ready access to vision care services. The team was there to teach local optometrists the process for providing vision health services – this includes pathology diagnosis and treatment as well as vision correction.
During 4 days of clinic over 400 patients received a comprehensive examination from the Gambian team of doctors and technicians with oversight from the OneSight Gambia team. Some of the findings were typical of what one would see in any clinic; a need for glasses or infections and diseases that can be treated with drops and medication. Some diagnoses were not so common and in those cases patients were referred for surgery or other treatments. For those patients’ who needed glasses, they will be made in the Gambian lab in Banjul and shipped backed to Farafenni for dispense.
The key to the rural site is that the patients will now receive vision care from their fellow Gambians – when OneSight leaves the continuity and quality of care will continue.
June 24, 2011
If you want to experience our 8 millionth patient, you can watch the video by clicking in the link below.
June 24, 2011
The word for thank you in Mandinka is abaraka.
We have all had those experiences in our lives; the new kid in school, the first day on the job, a move to a new city. We have felt the uneasy feeling that forms in our stomachs from being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by new people and not knowing what will come next. Imagine 30+ people all in the same boat, from different cities and countries around the world thrown into a foreign land. This is not some reality show, this is Team Gambia.
What if in your everyday lives you could walk off of a plane and instantly create an environment where everyone you met had a single, simple and selfless purpose? For Team Gambia our purpose is to help people gain access to vision care so that their everyday lives can be enriched. We have been honored to see the 8 millionth OneSight recipient and have been able to help over 900 people in 5 clinic days. We are breaking new ground in partnering with Sight Savers International. We are not here to VOTE someone out, rather we are here to HELP someone out.
Each of us in our own special way has made a contribution to our patients, the clinic and to each other. And if you think about it, while we are helping Gambians, they are helping us realize our potential as individuals to operate selflessly with a one common goal – what an incredible gift!
So, Team Gambia ( Yasmin, Angela, David, Katie, Kevin, Renato, Jonathan, John, Bill, Hanna, Leona, Chad, Jim, James, Deborah, Nahal, Michael, Gayla, Thu, Arnie, Nasim, Randy, Andrew, Andrea, Jeff, Erin, Wayne, Connie, Cindy, Tim, Mark, Albert, Doug ) would like to send a heartfelt ABARAKA to the Gambian people!
June 22, 2011
8 Million. Today in The Gambia OneSight helped it’s 8 Millionth patient!. For perspective, the population of The Gambia is 1.7Million - in 20+ years OneSight has helped the equivalent of the entire Gambian population 5 times over. How amazing is that?!?
Her name is Marokey. She is a 35 year old mother of 4 who had never worn glasses. She had trouble seeing people at a distance and doing her everyday work like gardening, cooking and sewing. After receiving her glasses she commented that she is so happy and grateful; she can see things clearly and can do things on her own. She was able to thread a needle - something she had not been able to do in years. In addition to Marokey, her 10 year old son also received a pair of glasses so that he can see better in school.
So, Marokey is the 8 millionth patient helped by OneSight. But guess what? Even more amazing things happened in the Gambia today, and in Ghana where we have another clinic in process – OneSight helped patient number 8,000,0001, 8,000,0002, 8,000,003,……the giving continues and the sky is the limit! So from the Doctors and Associates that are a part of Team Gambia - we had a an incredibly exciting day and we are truly humbled by the magnitude of what 8,000,000 means to OneSight and Luxottica. Please continue to follow us as we help even more people during our next next 6 clinic days.
June 17, 2011
Oh, the horror! All of the anticipation, and perhaps a bit of anxiety, for 9 of our Gambia team ended in disappontment - at least for today.
Unfortunately the travel gods were not on our side today and we missed our flight to Brussels. Fortunately the rest of the team is in route and we expect them to arrive in Banjul as schduled. For those of us still in the US, the good news is that we were all able to be rebooked to leave on Monday and will reach Gambia on Tuesday - a few days behind schedule but we will miss only 1 day of clinic.
As frustrating of a day as it has been, our clinic leader Dave Berumen, Annette Austin from OneSight, and Julie from BCD travel worked very quickly to find us alternative travel plans. A successful clinic has many participants many of whom operate behind the scenes far away from the clinic sight - so thanks to everyone who helped us today and we look forward to joining the rest of Team Gambia on Tuesday!
June 15, 2011
Just 2 more days until we leave for The Gambia! The team is very excited and OneSight is very close to helping our 8 millionth patient. You can follow us through the blog, on Facebook (OneSight) or Twitter (@onesightorg). We look forward to keeping you abreast of all things happening in The Gambia.
June 14, 2011
In just 5 days 34 Luxottica associates from around the globe will arrive in The Gambia in Africa. This will be the first time OneSight has participated in a clinic in The Gambia. Another first, we will be partnering with Sightsavers to help create a sustainable environment for vision care services. In addition to our blog, you can also follow our experience via Twitter @onesightorg. We look forward to sharing our amazing experiences!
About the Clinic
2011 Gambia Clinic Blog Clinic
A team of 20 trained volunteers and doctors from around the world will provide much needed vision care and eyewear to the people of The Gambia.