SEC 2012 - Injustice & Inequality

Blog entry by Lehns Vilson from the University of Connecticut.

On the weekend of June 6 and 7, we took a two-day trip to a remote town of Guatemala to do a solar presentation to local mayors/leaders, as well as campaigning and promoting our reading glasses. We spent Friday morning in a small town called Conguaco doing a presentation for our solar products. Before our presentation, there was another group of people also presenting their product to the leaders. This group claimed to have a plant called moringa that can treat cancer, AIDS, and all types of diseases. Of course I did not believe that, neither did the people in my group, however, my eyes opened up to the injustice that some people are using the lack of education of the people to steal their money from them. After that group, we went on to talk about the problems of not having electricity. Students cannot study at night and adults are limited in the type of work they can do. For those with access to electricity, it can be expensive. Our solution was to allow access to solar power. We were presenting three different types of solar products, of which I thought the most important was the lampara solar. This can be charged for four hours and gives off light at night for hours.

Two U21 students, Clare (center) and Erica, doing an eye examination to determine if the patient needs eye glasses.

After the presentation, we went for lunch and to get prepared for our reading glasses campaign in the afternoon. The campaign took place in the same room where we did the solar presentation. As we walked in, I was shocked at the great number of people sitting in line waiting for us to give them free eye examinations and to see how we can help solve their eye problems. I thought, man, how are we going to accommodate all these people? So we were under pressure. However, we organized ourselves fast and used patience to make sure that we did everything right. Among our examinations was a long-distance eye examination and a reading examination without our glasses and then with our glasses to see if there were improvements. Our campaign was mostly about promoting reading glasses, as the local people often find that they can no longer see to read their bibles or have difficulty weaving to make a living. We were also promoting protective glasses against sunlight and smoke, as many spend countless hours working in the field in the sunlight, and mothers spend the day in the kitchen where they use wood that produces a lot of fumes. The depressing side of our campaigns is that there are a lot of people who have more complicated problems than not being able to read. Many people have cataracts covering over their eyes, and a disease called pterigium caused by too much sun exposure and fumes. We couldn’t help those people. All we could do was to give them a reference to our partners in the capital. Even when we give them references, we know that a lot of people will end up not going because it’s too far away or an eye operation might be too costly. So in our campaigns, we are making a different to a large amount of people. However, there are countless others that we do not have the expertise or the resources to help. I hope that will change.