Dr. Barry Cook and his wife Julee of Price recently returned from a Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity trip to Ghana, Africa. This trip marked their 20th mercy mission completed in Africa. The majority of the people in Ghana are extremely poor; they do not have running water, electricity, bathrooms or any of the luxuries we consider essential in our lives. Yet, it was amazing to the Cooks how happy the people in Ghana are and how grateful they are for what little they have.
The Cooks joined three other doctors and family members from Utah. They were able to see about 1,500 patients in the free eye clinic. Vouchers to be seen at the clinic were given out to several thousand locals prior to the doctor’s arrival. Doctors saw hundreds of more patients than they anticipated would be possible. Unfortunately, however, there were still hundreds who had to be turned away.
The groups travel at their own expense for these trips. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsored the trip. The location was in an LDS meetinghouse near the Ghana LDS Temple in Accra.
Eyewear were prepared in Utah at each doctor’s office. Dr. Cook works with local boy scouts on their Eagle Scout projects to collect, clean, verify, repair, bag and label each pair of glasses. Along with the eyewear transported by the group, some LDS senior couple missionaries and young missionaries were able to help transport the eyewear in suitcases on the planes before the group arrived. The combined inventory of donated glasses came to about 6,000. Doctors provided free eye examinations to patients who were then fitted with the donated eyewear.
The groups always have heartwarming experiences as they work with these people who are in such great need. One such experience Julee told about was a young man in his late 20’s. He was literally led to the clinic by his family and had never had glasses before. He needed high-power minus lenses of about -8.00 and -7.00. Julee was able to find in the inventory three pairs that were approximately -7.00 and -6.50. The man put the glasses on his face and rose up out of his seat. His family was clapping and asking “Can you see?” His face was lit up as he exclaimed “Yes, I can see! I can see!” He had never before been able to see anything more than a few inches from his nose.
The people of Ghana were extremely gracious and thankful that the doctors would come and provide the gift of sight to them. Dr. Cook would like to thank the residents of Carbon and Emery counties for their continuous donations of eyewear for these trips to third world countries. The whole group would also like to thank the Utah State Lions Foundation for assistance regarding some transportation expenses.
Next year, the group is looking to Lima, Peru for another mercy mission.