Just a year after eye surgery to detach sun-damaged scar tissue from her left eye, Magaly Huamanchumo began to notice the familiar milky white sheen creeping again into her field of vision.
(UIW Optometry student William Cluff examines Magaly)
As a seamstress who is caring for her dying mother in an impoverished area of Chimbote, Peru, Magaly depends heavily on her eyesight. But daily demands and little-to-no income has meant she delayed getting her eyes checked for 14 years after first noticing the returning problems.
On Thursday, that wait ended. Magaly, 48, attended a free, University of Incarnate Word-sponsored eye clinic and received a full workup that identified returning scar tissue, as well as cataracts in both eyes. She left with new glasses and a referral for where and how to get free cataract surgery once she applies for low-income, government-sponsored health care.
“I’ve seen so many people here neglect their eyes and I knew mine would get worse and worse if I didn’t come,” Magaly said through tears. “But what do I do? I have no money, no ability to pay. I thank God for these doctors today.”
Those running the clinic at the Verbo Encarnado (Incarnate Word) Health System here are part of a Women’s Global Connection / UIW Ettling Center for Community Engagement / CCVI joint immersion trip from San Antonio to Peru. Magaly was one of 100 patients – young and old – seen Thursday by UIW students and faculty in the fields of optometry, pharmacy and nutrition. WGC volunteers provided support services. Over the next several days, up to 400 eye patients are expected to be cared for as part of the multi-day vision fair.
(WGC Volunteer and UIW Business faculty Dr. Michael Forrest repairs broken eyeglasses)
The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word established a presence in Chimbote over 50 years ago when six sisters arrived to serve those suffering from extreme poverty and political oppression. Formerly a bustling fishing port, Chimbote has been ravaged by decades of economic problems and surges in population. The developing-but-modern city center is today surrounded by sprawling woven-reed shacks built on a barren, sandy landscape. Chimbote today is one of Peru’s poorest and most contaminated cities, with fish factories pumping toxins into the air, soil and water.
To try and counteract some of those health effects, WGC has had a longtime partnership with the “Sembrando Infancia” nutritional and development project working to improve the health of mothers and their young children under age 5. The program, supported in part by the Christus Foundation, also is part of the Verbo Encarnado System. WGC staff and volunteers conduct early childhood education and teacher training workshops, as well as provide some direct funding for preschool health and education projects.
(WGC with preschool program near Chimbote)
On Thursday, Julia Vega, general director of the Verbo Encarnado System, met with representatives from WGC and the UIW Nutrition Department about a possible new research and evaluation project that could help improve treatment and prevention of malnutrition within the poorest zones around Chimbote where electricity and running water are nonexistent. Dr. Beth Senne-Duff, a UIW associate professor of nutrition traveling as a WGC volunteer advisor, is investigating whether faculty and students can begin collaborating soon.
(Julia Vega, general director of Verbo Encarnado)
Verbo Encarnado also is in discussions with Dr. Renee Bellanger, of the Feik School of Pharmacy on potential future collaborations.
Please stay tuned for more updates on this meaningful cross-cultural trip!
– Nicole Foy, WGC Associate Director