As August approaches, students across the United States will soon receive their standard in-school health screening. Preventative health screenings are a key opportunity for detecting children with growth delays, hearing issues, or most commonly, vision impairment. Early diagnosis followed by early intervention is key to ensuring children and their families are quickly connected with necessary resources.
But American students aren't the only ones we are responsible for. Several schools around the globe benefit from the work of G.O.D. Int'l, who offers them teachers, health training, facility improvements, teacher empowerment, and classroom supplies. The children at these schools also need health check-ups, hearing screenings and vision tests. This is no small task in parts of the world where yearly checkups isn't a seasonal task, but a chance of a lifetime.
In 2014, soon after we assumed responsibility for St. John's Primary, we conducted health screenings for the entire student body, with the help of cooperatives and Institute students. For an overwhelming number of students, this was their first checkup... ever. Through these exams, we learned that many students and faculty had eye complaints ranging from dry eyes, to blurry vision, to recurring pain. Because we were creating a baseline of records and targeting the highest priority issues, we were not able to respond at that time. While we have done our best to target necessary environmental changes like increased water supply, hand washing sinks, and supplying shoes, vision wasn't something we were able to deal with, until now.
This June, Dr. John Miller, an opthamologist from Chattanooga TN, accompanied us on a trip to Uganda where he performed vision screenings on the students and teachers at St. John’s. With the help of Lawrence Ssemakula, cooperative and lead teacher, Dr. Miller examined the students with known eye issues and offered relevant treatment plans and preventative education. Due to limited resources, it is likely that many of these children would have gone years without seeing a doctor. For those students, their eye issues would have likely worsened to the extent that they may have lost their vision entirely!
Upon seeing all the obstacles people face to access health care firsthand, Dr. Miller decided to perform vision screenings on every single student and teacher at St. John’s - all 400 of them. From our screenings, we matched 10 adults from the school and surrounding area with appropriate reading glasses to help overcome their normal vision loss due to old age. After one woman tried on her new glasses, she praised God and cried tears of thankfulness for a gift she never would have afforded on her own.
However, Dr. Miller recognized that while we could help some with the equipment and supplies on hand, still others would need further examination and specialized care. To meet this need, Dr. Miller networked with ophthalmologists at Kampala’s Mengo Hospital and created opportunities for those students and teachers with more serious eye issues to receive further examination and care.
What Dr. Miller began during his trip was then furthered by Kara Hadley, a Institute for G.O.D. student with a focus in Public Health. Kara helped screen the remaining students at St. John’s so that we could identify which students and teachers had more serious issues. With the assistance of Dr. Miller, the doctors at Mengo Hospital, and G.O.D.'s East Africa team, we are currently making preparations for seven students to have further examination and treatment in hopes of ensuring their future sight! We find it nothing short of miraculous that a school the size of St. John’s had no more than seven students in need of further care, and feel so blessed to be able to help them!
We thank God for preserving the health of the students and teachers at St. John’s Primary School and are grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Miller to help those in need! We ask for your continued prayers for these remaining students and their healing.