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8864: Univ. of Ohio joins Batey Relief Alliance to bring vision care to Dominican's bateys (fwd)

From: bateyrelief@mindspring.com

August 10, 2001
Immediate Release
Contact: Ulrick Gaillard at bateyrelief@mindspring.com

Univ. of Ohio College of Optometry joins the Batey Relief Alliance to bring
vision care to impoverished Haitian migrant cane cutters and others in
Dominican’s “sugar ghettos”.

Fresh from a successful medical mission cosponsored by the Catholic Medical
Mission Board with a grant of nearly $ 1 million in medical supplies, the
Batey Relief Alliance [BRA] is teaming up with the Ohio State University
College of Optometry to bring desperately needed vision care to some of the
Dominican Republic’s neediest and neglected people, including the Haitian
migrant workers and their families languishing in sugar cane labor camps
known as bateys. “This past June, our organization provided free medicines,
vitamins and medical services to thousands of Monte Plata batey residents in
the areas of internal medicine, optometry, pediatrics, dentistry – and
preventive health education in sexually-transmitted diseases, including
HIV/AIDS,” said Ulrick Gaillard, Executive Director of the BRA. “Now, we are
completing the mission with free vision care – a crucial component of our
health program.”

BRA will cosponsor more than a dozen graduating optometry students and
faculty of the Volunteers of Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) at the
University on a five-day optometry mission to the Dominican Republic from
September 3rd through the 7th, 2001. The team will operate in the bateys of
Monte Plata where they will conduct eye exams, screen for ocular diseases
and provide hundreds of patients with prescription eye and sunglasses.
“Providing free eye care is the intelligent thing to do and the best thing
that could happen to the population given that eyeglasses in the bateys –
where more than 200,000 people live in extreme poverty – are an unaffordable
luxury, and that even a broken pair can mean the difference between life
with functional eyesight and life with legal blindness,” explained BRA’s
optometry Director, Dr. Mira K. Uzwyshyn. “The population suffers from a
variety of vision problems, including cataracts, glaucoma, traumatic vision,
amblyopic vision reduction, exotropia, toxoplasmosis, pinguecula and
pterygia – resultant from a lifelong exposure to the ultraviolet sun light
and poor sanitation,” added Dr. Uzwyshyn. Local partner health and welfare
organizations are expected to work with BRA on logistics, project
implementation and provision of care based on the population’s cultural
values and basic health needs.

Last February 28th, BRA held an International Conference at the United
Nations where, for the first time, high level government representatives and
scholars from Haiti and the Dominican Republic gathered to discuss the
miserable conditions under which thousands of Haitians live and work in the
bateys – and the discriminatory assaults they continue to face. On the legal
front, generations of Dominicans born of Haitian migrants are denied the
country’s nationality – thus hindering their full human development.  Their
“transient” or undocumented parents are continuously being repatriated
without hope for a future in Haiti – and sometimes lose their lives under
questionable circumstances as they cross the Haitian/Dominican border in
search of opportunities.  “The situation in the bateys is severe as
inhabitants face serious health problems where there are virtually no
dispensaries or drugs.  Families live in rundown state quarters or/and tiny
shacks made of mud and split cane where they are no electricity, sewage
systems, latrines, running water, or trash collections,” said Gaillard. The
BRA, a non-profit organization and a member of the Global Health Council, is
actively involved in saving lives by providing direct medical care and
donating much-needed medical supplies to various Dominican-based partner
organizations serving the batey populations’ health needs. Visit BRA’s new
Website at www.bateyrelief.org

Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) www.bateyrelief.org
Tax-exempt, non-profit, non-political humanitarian aid organization.
For donations and information, contact:
Ulrick Gaillard, Executive Director
P.O. Box 300565, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230
(917) 627-5026 or at bateyrelief@mindspring.com.
Maria Virtudes Berroa, Regional Director
Apartado Postal 5085, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dom.
(809) 383-1547 or at bra.dominicana@mindspring.com
A copy of BRA's latest annual report may be obtained, upon request,
from the organization or from the Office of the Attorney General, Charities
Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10271