Laurie Baalson of Emily, helps a woman with her first pair of bifocals during a mission trip that brought 32 volunteers from Minnesota to Africa in October. - photo submitted
VOSH mission brings eye exams, glasses to Africa
Web posted December 24, 2013
For one week in October, some local residents traveled as part of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) mission to Marangu in Tanzania on the African continent.
Ken and wife Laurie (pictured above assisting with an exam) Baalson of Emily were part of a group of 32 volunteers that included two medial doctors, an optomologist and six optometrists and three opticians. Also part of the entourage was 15 interpreters.
The Lakers Lions have been collecting old discarded eyewear in the community. Ken Baalson said the group performed 2,800 eye exams and gave away over 4,000 pairs of glasses during four days of service. Ken and Laurie live in Emily and have been active in the Lakers Lions for many years. Ken works at Crosslake/Pequot Lakes Eye Center.
“Imagine being age 65 and not being able to read for 20 years - a pair of glasses can be life-changing,” Baalson said, adding that the average yearly income is between $500-600.
Baalson noted this marked the 16th mission since 1995, and most had been to Latin American countries.
From the VOSH-Minnesota website: “Since 1976 VOSHMinnesota has organized one or more mission trips per year to various countries around the world, from India to Africa to Central and South America. We may be assisted by government agencies, service or religious organizations in our host countries, but we have no political or religious affiliations.”
VOSH, organized in 1972 by a Kansas Optometrist, Dr. Franklin Harms, has become the leading provider of professional volunteer vision care to the developing countries of the world, serving over 100,000 people per year and has helped establish permanent eye clinics in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mexico. VOSH has also set up clinics in disaster areas such as in Bosnia following a war, in El Salvador following an earthquake, and in Honduras and the Dominican Republic following hurricanes.
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