Some Utah doctors are coming together to help one of the poorest countries in the world – Mali, Africa.
While most people can’t imagine life without the most important of the five senses, their sight, for the people in Mali West Africa, this is quite the reality.
Four doctors and 16 volunteers from Utah are headed to Mali this Thanksgiving to restore sight for at least 200 people through eye surgeries, and to give eyeglasses to 750 people in need of vision correction.
Bryan Monson is one of those eye doctors donating his Thanksgiving to help. “We can go and use our talents to make an impact, and to make a difference. It can change their stars and give these people a shot at life,” Dr. Monson said.
But why Mali?
Dr. Monson says, “Why Mali? Why do we travel 6000 miles from home to go do surgery when there is need far closer here? The blind in developing countries are particularly vulnerable. In developing countries like Mali, these aren’t just maladies that affect the elderly. They affect even the young.”
In Mali, there is approximately one doctor for every 17,000 people, while there are about 2.5 doctors for every 1,000 people in the United States. The Ouelessebougou Alliance was started in Utah to help address Mali’s medical needs.
Michael Clayton has been a tremendous help to the alliance. He says, “It started in 1985… Mali was the third most impoverished country in the world. Three in 10 children were dying by time they were one.”
The Ouelessebougou Alliance reached out to Clayton in 2012, asking for help in getting doctors to Mali to perform these eye surgeries. Clayton jumped on the opportunity and has returned to Mali at least once a year since.
“As we’ve done these eye surgeries, we’ve built a relationship of love. They literally have nothing,” says Clayton.
And despite not having much, Clayton says it’s amazing to see how happy and family oriented the people are.
“The reason I like to go every year is for the feeling of satisfaction, and seeing people get their vision, and seeing people gain hope. They get excited because there is something for them to hope for.”
While they can’t help everyone who travels on foot in hopes of eye surgery, they say helping the ones they can is a remarkable experience.
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