Utah Children’s Eye Care Charity Expands to Mali and Africa

Optician Tawna O’Reilly helps 8-year-old Oscar Rodriguez with his glasses during the Eye Care 4 Kids mobile clinic event in front of Merit Medical on April 21, 2018, in southern Jordan. Next month, the Utah-based non-profit organization will take its first steps to go international, with a new clinic in Mali, Africa, to provide eye care to children on the African continent. (Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Joseph Carbone leaves for another mission.

But he’s not sharing gospel messages, and there’s no two-year deadline for him to end it.

For Carbone, an optician, bringing glasses to some of the world’s 500 million children without eye care is a life’s work. And next month, the nonprofit he started some 20 years ago, Utah-based Eye Care 4 Kids, will take the first steps to go international as he, along with partners, is establishing a new clinic in the African country of Mali and providing care for children on the African continent, where, according to Carbone, more than 10 million people need vision services.

“And so we have a lot of work to do. And that’s my life’s work, to bring the gift of sight to as many children as possible,” he said.

The clinic in Mali will only be the first Eye Care 4 Kids clinic in Africa. The association also plans to open a clinic in a Catholic hospital in Kenya, which could open by 2022 or 2023. In Rwanda, the association wants to create a mobile clinic to visit the mountainous regions, where eye care services are limited or non-existent.

In December, Carbone and a colleague will also visit Uganda and the Nakivale refugee camp, which is home to thousands of refugees from around the world. He plans to do more than 1,000 eye exams and distribute 500 glasses.

“We know this is going to change our lives, seeing a refugee camp up close and personal,” Carbone said.

The non-profit organization has already helped 400,000 children in Utah and across the United States. Carbone also traveled to Africa before offering eye care to children. But by 2025, he wants to have helped another million people through the nonprofit.

The work in Mali, including the opening of a new clinic, was made possible with the help of Malian presidential candidate Yeah Samake, a graduate of Brigham Young University. Samake helped Eye Care 4 Kids with the documentation, helping them to be recognized in this country as a non-profit organization that can operate there. Mali will serve as the charity’s “main transport point” in Africa, Carbone said.

Although he plans to travel with just one other employee, Carbone will receive eye care assistance through a partnership with Kiwanis International, a service club with workers in Africa.

Eye Care 4 Kids is also a partner of Essilor Vision Foundation for corrective lenses, Modern Optical International for spectacle frames and 1-800-Contacts.

“It’s really emotional for me because I’m able to realize not only my dreams but also the story after, if you want, and talk to the mother of the little girl or boy who gets the glasses. “, he explained.

“Moms are smart, moms know their kids need things that they can’t give them because of access or because of finances. And, so we think we’re teaming up with moms, if you want, because they are the caregivers, they are the nannies, they are the ones who look after the children all day We feel a partnership with the mothers to provide these services for their children, so it is extremely rewarding We think, I feel, that’s my ministry. That’s my mission,” Carbone added.

Those who want to help Eye Care 4 Kids’ efforts in Africa can donate online at eyecare4kids.org or sighttheworld.org.

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