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Empowering refugees through the USee Vision System

Published: 10.03.2021
Greg Wiens Faith-Based Coordinator
Global Vision 2020

Global Vision 2020 began working in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in November 2018.  The project was started by Greg Wiens, the Faith-Based Coordinator for Global Vision 2020, in partnership with the Mennonite Brethren Churches of Malawi. Greg joined Sherry Heidebrecht, a professional counselor who specializes in trauma care. Sherry was in the refugee camp to train and equip women on how to deal with their own personal trauma and to learn to walk alongside other women who had experienced the same.

Greg trained a team of 11 workers, 6 women and 5 men, all of whom either had a medical background or experience as high school teachers.  The entire team was composed of refugees.  The head of the project is Dr. Gilbert Mwita, a refugee from Congo, who is employed at the UNHCR Medical Clinic in Dzaleka.

Chuka with young girlHe spent the first day training the team on how to use the USee Vision System, and they immediately saw incredible stories of success.  For instance, on the second day Chuka Flora, a health care worker and refugee from Congo, helped a sixteen-year-old young lady receive glasses. The young girl had lost her sight in her left eye by the butt end of a rifle to the face. She was clearly traumatized, and she would not even look up at anyone. With kind words and a gentle embrace, Chuka convinced her to look up at the eye chart. The young woman was able to see line 6 out of 11 on the eye chart with her one good eye. Chuka then expertly showed her how to use the USee and within minutes she had a pair of eyeglasses that enabled her to see all the way to the bottom of the eye chart!  Perfect vision!  The look of joy on the face of her mother was priceless.  Twenty minutes before, in walked a young woman who was so traumatized that she could hardly look up, who now walked out the door with a smile on her face, standing up straight! The only thing better to see was the pride of Chuka as she has just given life back to a fellow refugee!

Just over 4,000 eyeglasses have been distributed so far, being sold for $5 per pair. All the eyeglasses have been distributed by refugees themselves. These funds have enabled the team members to make $5 a day and the remaining funds were pooled to purchase farmland outside of the refugee camp where Mennonite families have been able to relocate.  The Mennonite churches have since dug wells and planted drip irrigation gardens that produce a continuous crop of potatoes and other vegetables, thousands of fruit trees as well as drought resistant crops such as beans and lentils introduced by Canadian farmers.

Global Vision 2020’s USee enables success stories like this all over the world.  This is done by simply adding this amazing tool to programmes that are already underway, from medical, educational and agricultural projects.  It is easy to learn and use and has incredible results, all the while opening the door for local workers to make a sustainable living.

In May of this year, 5,500 eyeglasses will be delivered to the team in Malawi as they continue to expand their work. All of the eyeglasses for this project have been paid for by rural Mennonite farming families in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada.

Disclaimer: The views, ideas, technologies or policy positions in these blog posts belong to the authors and do not necessarily describe IAPB’s position or views on these matters.