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Poverty Alleviation Projects

May 4, 2009

Dear Friends:

Welcome to your April 2009 report for The $10 Club.

Cambodia is mired in significant poverty. It is a nation ravaged by landmines, malaria, HIV/AIDS, methamphetamine abuse, rapid urbanization, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

But the story that affected me the most, one that I read a month ago, was entitled, “The High Price of Jealousy.” The article detailed how jealous spouses or lovers often resort to dousing a rival’s face and neck with acid in retribution. One hostess at a karaoke bar who was attacked commented: “I have no face, no job, and I will suffer forever.” The picture with the story, however, was of a young child. Kids often suffer when acid thrown at adults splashes them as well.

Dr. William Grut is a surgeon with the Canadian-based Rose Charities, which provides free treatment for the victims of these attacks. After reading the story I contacted Dr. Grut to see if The $10 Club could find a way to help.

He informed me that while these brutal attacks happen with alarming frequency in Cambodia, the real ongoing need at the Rose-supported clinics involves vision repair. Cambodia is estimated to have 100,000 people who are totally or partially blind. Over seventy percent have surgically treatable conditions, such as cataracts and early glaucoma.

The majority of Cambodians cannot afford health care. Many eye infections and diseases are left untreated for years. Cataracts and other conditions are allowed to progress until they cause total blindness. “When a person is blind in Cambodia, the whole family suffers.” Dr. Grut told me. “The man can’t work; often his wife has to limit her work to stay home to look after him. A child is often taken from school to act as a guide. The loss of income puts the extended family into poverty. With a simple cataract surgery, the family is restored.”

This month, 370 of us joined together to donate $3,700 to Rose Charities to support their work performing eye surgeries in Cambodia. Our donation will restore the sight of approximately 630 people through the acquisition of Intra-ocular implantable lenses and other supplies needed for the surgery. Thank you.

The Rose Cambodia Eye Centre in Phnom Phen is the largest free eye treatment center in Cambodia. It performs 100-120 ophthalmic operations per month, the majority being cataract operations with insertion of a plastic artificial lens to enable a total restoration of vision. All treatments are free of charge. Rose Charities covers the monthly overheads and staff costs but cannot meet all the costs for the surgical materials.

The Eye Centre is run by a skilled Cambodian team headed by full time ophthalmologist, Dr. Hang Vra, and includes an optometrist, 3 ophthalmology assistants, and trainees. The team is supported by experts from Canada and New Zealand who make regular visits to ensure that standards are maintained, skills are upgraded and the best techniques are used. The staff is extremely dedicated and run the clinic on a tiny budget, working long hours to see as many people as possible.

The Centre could easily increase the number of surgeries a year, as there is a waiting list of blind people who would want to have their sight restored. The clinic has three operating tables but the number of surgeries is limited due to the lack of funds to purchase all the IOL’s (artificial lenses) and other surgical materials (sutures, packing, instrument replacements).

Cambodians come from all over the country – the vast majority of whom are terribly poor. The clinic has gained a national reputation as a quality facility, perhaps because the lead doctor and staff are Cambodian, but working under “western” standards. Perhaps just because of the price (at other clinics corruption leads to gauging patients needing treatment).

Dr. Grut tells the story of going out to the countryside to do eye camps some years ago, up to the mountains near Vietnam. His team came across three ox carts with blind riders heading to the screening location. They had almost nothing with them – just boards on an ox cart for a blind person to sit or lie on. For three days they traveled, having heard about the eye camp from a friend of a friend who heard about the vision treatments from an ad on an old radio. The demand and need for Rose’s work is clear.

Sight restoration enables Cambodians to work, to get educated, to look after children. A simple operation – implanting an artificial lens, can literally give these folks in need a new lease on life. It will change their lives. It will put them in a position to see, and shape, their future. While many serious challenges still face people throughout Cambodia, thanks to you, more than 600 people now will have their vision restored. That’s more than two people every day from now until the end of the year! What a noble gift you have given them.

Saving the world, ten dollars at a time,


PS. Please share this report with everyone you can, urging them to join The $10 Club!

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