Last month Ruth Perrott completed her 14th trip to Africa. Working alongside her professional colleague Sarah Dineen from Glossop, the pair set up four temporary clinics and saw an incredible 1318 patients and dispensed 1051 pairs of spectacles.
Ruth’s extraordinary commitment to restoring eye sight to thousands of people in remote locations began 25 years ago when she first visited Africa to help with vision care by treking through the jungle in The Cameroon. Since then she has never looked back with her travels taking her to many remote parts of Africa including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.
Accompanied by a small team of trusted volunteers, Ruth travelled 1324 kilometers over three travelling days, bumping between rural locations, often on unmade roads between Nsaru, Chinteche, Mangochi and Lilongwe.
With so many people to be seen by the team, the clinics must run efficiently. With each African trip the process becomes more efficient. The clinics operate with four stages; a local volunteer speaking Chichewa, the native language, carries out registration before a trained volunteer conducts an eye chart test to measure the patient’s vision. The third stage is refraction where the optometrists assess the best binocular lenses before the patient is finally passed to the dispensing area where the appropriate spectacles are found from the library.
Generally, the people helped have little access to medicine or optometry and very little money. The provision of spectacles can have a significant impact on their lives as there is no social security or NHS. In particular, farmers and fishermen who, following years of intense UV exposure, have very limited sight.
During her trip, Ruth spent three nights sharing a dormitory with 44 teenage girls. Despite the often-grueling clinics and the unconventional conditions, the team always received a warm welcome from their hosts and the patients they treated. The last clinic was in Lilongwe and the team saw a record 253 people, most of whom received spectacles in just one day.
Whilst the trips overseas generally only last two weeks, there is constant preparation needed to make the clinics happen. Rotary York Ainsty help to collect, wash, measure and sort the donated spectacles whilst numerous friends, customers and organizations donate money.
Ruth has now completed 14 trips overseas to date and is already planning her next visit in 2018
For more information on Ruth’s trip to Malawi watch the video at http://youtu.be/08dVb8HdmFA