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Optician heading to Ethiopia

By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

As an optician, one of Catherine Labrecque-Rowntree's greatest joys is watching someone slip on their very first pair of glasses and knowing she helped give them, quite literally, a whole new view of the world.

She's hoping to do that for many hundreds of people as part of a medical mission team that will be working in Harbu Chulule, Ethiopia from Sept. 20 to Oct. 3.

An optician for the past 13 years and co-owner of I Vision Optical at the Lynden Park Mall, Rowntree will be working with a team of fellow opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists who will partner with staff from Medical Ministry International and HOPEthiopia.

Rowntree was busy on the weekend stuffing dozens of pairs of glasses into her luggage in preparation for her flight, first to Italy to visit family, and then on to Africa.

"I've always wanted to do something like this," she said. "But the timing never seemed right. You get caught up in the rat race. I finally decided to just do it."

Rowntree said the trip was also an entry on her bucket list created 10 years ago when her mother died of cancer at age 57.

"I expect it is going to change my life," she said.

The optical and surgical project will be held at Harbu Chulule Health Centre. Patients will be offered vision screenings, diagnosis, refractions and be scheduled for surgeries.

Rowntree estimates they will be handing out 500 to 600 pairs of glasses a day.

Harbu Chulule is a small region about 100 kilometres from the capital of Addis Ababa in the centre of Ethiopia, which is located in the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia is a landlocked country and has suffered drought and deforestation, leaving most residents with a scarcity of food and water.

Water-borne illnesses are highly prevalent and there is a massive shortage of physicians in the country.

Rowntree connected with Medical Mission International after hearing someone talk about a trip while she was at an Ontario Opticians Association conference. She later connected with Barbara and Richard Skinner who head Medical Ministry Canada based in Stoney Creek.

Medical Ministry International operates in more than 23 countries and executes more than 75 projects a year, including those in auditory care, dental care, obstetric care, orthopedics and physical therapy, surgical care, and vision care.

Vision care is one of the organization's largest and most successful programs. According to the World Health Organization, more than 90% of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries.

I Vision Optical accepts donations year-round of used glasses that are given to those need.

michelle.ruby@sunmedia.ca


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