About Unite For Sight at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana (Refugees From Liberia Living In Ghana)
In January 2005, Unite For Sight established an eye care program at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Gomoa, Ghana. Prior to this, eye care had never been provided at the refugee camp. Like all Unite for Sight programs, this program at Buduburam originated due to an urgent community need. Karrus Hayes, a school teacher at the refugee camp, learned about Unite For Sight while searching for health care resources on the Internet. He contacted Unite For Sight, which then worked with Karrus and other members of the community to establish an eye care presence at the refugee camp. Dr. James Clarke, Ophthalmologist and Medical Director of Crystal Eye Clinic, who is also a member of Unite For Sight's Medical Advisory Board, leads the program locally. Crystal Eye Clinic is a private clinic in Accra, Ghana, that has been devoted to service outreach programs for years despite very limited resources and staffing. A partnership with Unite For Sight to assist with regular community eye care programs and funding for surgeries was immediately a mutually beneficial affiliation.
On the first day when Unite For Sight's volunteers arrived at Buduburam, hundreds of people had already signed their names to a list to receive an eye care screening. Patients presented with cataracts, glaucoma, corneal opacities and scarring, macular scarring, and a range of other ailments. As patients continued flooding into the eye clinic, Unite For Sight's Volunteer Team trained the local refugees to assist with the vision screenings so that they could help identify patients requiring diagnosis, treatment, and surgery at Crystal Eye Clinic. Karrus, the teacher who originally contacted Unite For Sight, was appointed as the leader of the local Buduburam Refugee Camp chapter of Unite For Sight. He mobilized a large contingent of dedicated, motivated, and dependable volunteers to assist with the daily Unite For Sight activities. Over the course of eight months, Unite For Sight's volunteers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe trained staff of the local chapter to provide the screenings without the need for outside aid from international Unite For Sight volunteers. By September 2005, the local chapter took the lead with the eye care program and has continued daily screenings at the refugee camp without the need for support by international volunteers. Unite For Sight's 8 months of training and program development created a program that is locally run by the refugees. An eye nurse at Crystal Eye Clinic visits Buduburam Refugee Camp regularly to diagnose and treat patients, and also to identify those requiring advanced treatment and surgery by Dr. Clarke at his eye clinic, which is located approximately 90 minutes away.
The program at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana is so successful that patients from the neighboring country of Liberia - a country with only 1 ophthalmologist for the entire population of 3.5 million - have been reported to travel to the refugee camp just to have their sight restored through Unite For Sight's programs.
"Unite For Sight is the only organization that has been able to give free treatment in this settlement since I have been on this refugee camp, and right now there are people coming all the way from Liberia here
for help from Unite For Sight. Many of our patients have returned to Liberia with the good news about Unite For Sight in the refugee camp in Ghana."
-Karrus Hayes, President of Unite For Sight Chapter at Buduburam Refugee Camp
"The question I have always asked myself is 'what would have happened to all these people who have benefited from Unite For Sight programs had the organization not come to their aid?' It is likely that many would have perished in their agony."
-Dr. James Clarke, Crystal Eye Clinic, Ghana