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Donate your old shades to needy Haitians

A final push is under way for donations of sunglasses to help people plagued by eye conditions in Haiti.

Lucy Willitts launched the drive for shades last year after she experienced, first hand, the plight of residents in the poverty-stricken country.

She visited with the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission to assist a team of surgeons in October and told how dirt, dust and malnutrition, as well as the bright sunshine, could cause serious eye damage.

The 74-year-old, of Pembroke, returned to Bermuda with an urge to help further and made an impassioned plea to her fellow islanders to fill a container with sunglasses.

With hundreds of pairs already donated, Ms Willitts, a retired bank worker and after-school care assistant, called on people to join her crusade before the shades are shipped.

She said: “The Haitians' eyes are burning and they have nothing. I thank the people who have already donated, from the bottom of my heart, and I'm sure the Haitians do also.

“They're going to save eyesight and that's the crucial thing. Haitians are losing their eyesight because they live so close to the equator and they live in a dustball.”

Ms Willitts recalled a teenager called Carlos, who had been shunned by his community because he was blind, was among the hundreds of patients that attended during her visit. It is hoped he will enrol in school and return to the clinic as an interpreter.

Ultraviolet rays as well as other radiation from the sun has been linked to eye damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

The risks are greater for people living closer to the equator, such as those in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere and where few can afford quality sunglasses.

Malnutrition, including vitamin A deficiency, and a poor standard of medical care has also been said to increase the risk of major eye problems.

The NWHCM facility in Saint-Louis-Du-Nord offers a range of services, including medical and dental clinics, orphanages and a seniors' home.

Ms Willitts appealed to everyone in Bermuda to fill a cardboard box with sunglasses for adults and children, and mark it “Shades for Haiti”.

They can be delivered to The Garden Market, on Serpentine Road, Pembroke, before the end of February.

Grateful patient: eye surgeon Torie Soriano is shown with Carlos, a Haitian teenager

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Published January 25, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated January 25, 2019 at 7:02 am)

Donate your old shades to needy Haitians

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