Great Shape! Inc's iCare programme gives free eye care
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
This year, the location was Alterry Beach in Priory, St Ann, for the annual iCare programme put on by Great Shape! Inc and Sandals Foundation
Once again, there were hundreds of persons, adults and children alike, who benefited from the free eye-care programme.
On Monday, the first day, a record 458 persons got free eye tests and most were fitted with glasses.
Great Shape! Inc, based in California in the United States, has been offering free medical care to Jamaicans for the past 25 years, but it was in 2009 that the iCare programme started, and since then, more than 12,000 persons have been beneficiaries of free eye care.
Apart from Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts, the Ministry of Health, JUTA, Lions International, and VOSH International are involved with the event.
Steven Stern, programme, director, said the response this year has been overwhelming. Last week, while the clinic was in Black River, a record 2,053 persons were seen in one week, beating the previous total of 1,800 reached two years ago in Eltham, St Ann.
"Yesterday, we broke a record. We saw 458 persons in one day, even though the first day is usually slow," Stern told Rural Express. He expects that for the week ending Friday, the figure will again be a record.
This year, the team consists of 41 persons, which includes 11 doctors, eight opticians, nurses, and other support staff.
"We're providing blood pressure and blood-sugar screening and full eye exams with tested glasses, reading glasses, and sunglasses. Also, we look for pathology for medical conditions and we're able to refer and get some medication for that," Stern explained.
Even though the majority of persons turning out were adults, Stern said the programme was particularly important for children.
"It's so important, especially for children, because if they don't get their eyes tested early, it will affect their whole life, and they won't do well in school."
Stern praised the support offered by the Sandals Foundation, without which the programme would not have been possible.
"I have to say a big thank you to Sandals Foundation. They provide food, lodging, logistics support, and make our stay so wonderful, so we can come here and we don't have to worry about our basic needs. We can come here and just do the work we do. They make it possible," Stern said.
Stern shared his reason for coming to offer free eye care to Jamaicans year after year.
"My love for the Jamaican people, I've talked about that, my love for the music in Jamaica. Sometimes I'm so tired and I say to myself 'Why do I do this?' and I look up and see somebody smiling at me, and I see that face and I see their eyes light up when they get their glasses, and then I know I have to do this. It's so powerful!"
Sandals regional public relations manager Lyndsay Isaacs said: "It's really amazing to see what's going on - how the community is benefiting from this. We have persons from all over St Ann, from as far as Trelawny and St Mary as well, coming just to get their eyes tested and to get their glasses. And they are very appreciative. It's just our way of giving back to the community."
Great Shape! Inc also offers the Thousand Smiles (dental) programme and the Super Kids project, which assists in providing computers and books to students.