The Okanagan’s travelling optician, Catherine Goheen, is about to take off on another of her missions to deliver donated eyeglasses from the Okanagan to people in developing countries.
But when she arrives in Douala, Cameroon on Oct. 11 to present the used glasses she has been collecting to Rotarians there, she will also be marking a special day.
“It is such a coincidence that the day I arrive is on World Sight Day. Yemele Paul is very keen on receiving even two suitcases of eyeglasses, since there is such a great need in the rural areas, where his projects are,” said Goheen.
World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. It’s a cause that Goheen has been championing for 18 years with her campaign to deliver corrective glasses to far corners of the world.
Even a pair of reading glasses, she said, can make a huge difference in the lives of a person who has become unproductive due to failing vision.
“Many women in Third World Countries feed their children by sewing, weaving, embroidering, or piece work basis. They often sell their products cheaply to tourists,” said Goheen, noting that if failing vision prevents they from performing their craft, they often must rely on their children to work full time to support their families. “With the donated Okanagan reading glasses that we have given women, we have empowered them to continue to work and their children to return to school.”
While she leaves on Oct. 10, Goheen said they are still collecting glasses at the Dr. Specs Optical location in Penticton Plaza, near Safeway as well as their Orchard Park location in Kelowna. They are looking for all kinds of used glasses: prescription lenses, reading glasses and sunglasses.
“One suit case is full, but we have not yet filled the second one,” said Goheen, who will also be fulfilling another duty for Rotary while visiting Cameroon.
Paul, a Cameroon Rotarian, coordinates a number of projects that Canadian Rotary clubs sponsor. Water wells, health, education, proper nutrition for children and vulnerable women are key areas that Rotary is assisting with. Many of these children and women have been affected by AIDS.
Goheen, who has been trained as an official evaluator by the Canadian Rotary Committee for International Development will be looking over and reporting on these projects for the club while she is in the country.
“Sadly, I will not have any extra time to see the country’s sights, neither the jungles, desert, nor animals since we will be busy evaluating the water wells and schools that Rotary has built and supported in four different communities,” said Goheen.