Changing Lives in Honduras, One Pair of Eyes at a Time

August 2014 | Stories from the field

By Randal Avolio

President / CEO

August 26, 2014 – We’ve all seen the news reports lately on the ongoing humanitarian crisis taking place on our own border: since 2011, there has been a huge surge of people, mainly women and children, fleeing their homes in Central America and seeking to immigrate to the United States. Roughly 60,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border into the U.S. in 2014 alone, overwhelming government facilities and immigration courts. Most of them are teens, but some are as young as five. While much of the media coverage has focused on the debate over what status, if any, should be given to these refugees, not as much is aimed at what is causing this crisis – and what Americans can do to be part of the solution. As it turns out, there is a lot that organizations like SEE can do to help.

Life in Honduras & Immigration

Life is dangerous in Central America, particularly for women and children. Honduras ChildrenPoverty, civil wars, and gang violence are chronic features in the region. Honduras in particular has suffered over the past five years; in 2009, a government coup caused the country to descend into a period of political chaos, and the economy languished. It now has the highest murder rate in the world, with neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala coming in second and fifth, respectively. Many of the children fleeing northward are trying to escape this violence, while others are looking for work to provide for their destitute families.

We Can Help

With problems this deep and pervasive, an ophthalmological nonprofit like SEE can make a positive difference. But here’s the thing that most people don’t realize: treating blindness can absolutely change the world. Restoring someone’s eyesight makes a difference not just for the patient, but their families, their communities, and beyond. Blindness can keep parents from finding employment and providing for their families. It can keep children from receiving an education, either because they themselves are blind, or they have to care for a blind elder. More broadly, it can deprive their entire community of that person’s contributions. So the pattern of impoverishment cascades throughout the country.

Yet a simple, safe, inexpensive surgery can make the difference. It can determine whether or not a factory worker can feed his family. It can enable a farmer to bring her produce to market. It can help a child go to school and have a future. All they need is access to that surgery. That is why the volunteer work of our incredible SEE Docs is so important. These world-class eye doctors fly all over the world on their own dime, SEE provides them with the technology and supplies they need, and they perform sight-restoring surgeries at absolutely no charge to their patients. Without the willingness of the SEE Docs to travel to tumultuous locations like Honduras, as well as generous support from our donors and companies like Bausch & Lomb this could not happen.

Together, We Do More

All of this leads me to bring you the exciting news that SEE will be expanding its Honduras Examoperations in Honduras. During 2014, SEE will partner with long-time local collaborators, Centro Cristiano de Servicios Humaniarios de Honduras. Together, we will hold at least 18 surgical programs throughout Honduras. Our seven-year relationship has created a strong, trusting bond that has resulted in a solid local infrastructure that promotes efficiency and effectiveness in each clinic. Through our joint efforts, we estimate that we will reverse blindness in at least 1,000 impoverished Hondurans. SEE Docs have already completed 9 expeditions, treating more than 700 people, with traveling ophthalmologists working side-by-side with the host physicians during 30-minute cataract procedures. In addition, post-operative education and care are provided jointly by the SEE International team and the host agency.

By the end of this year, SEE will have not just restored the sight of more than 1,000 blind Hondurans – we will have transformed the lives of 1,000 families. Parents will be able to return to work. Children will be able to go back to school. People will once again be able to contribute to their neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities. While it won’t cure Honduras of all of its ills, for many Hondurans, eradicating preventable blindness in the country will break an important link in the cycle of poverty.

SEE International finds itself in the midst of an incredible adventure. We hope you’ll join us on it!

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