SUBMITTED BY NICKI KLEIN, Lincoln South Rotary Club for the Neighborhood Extra
Like many Rotary Club members, Dr. Kim Baxter joins Rotary to increase community involvement. He would soon find that as an optometrist, he could provide much-needed service to communities around the world that needed access to ophthalmology.
He contacted Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) and learned of a need for volunteers to help at eye clinics in Kenya.
Baxter shared his story with members of the Lincoln South Rotary Club, who learned how he used the power of Rotary connections to provide volunteers, funds, and passion to make dreams come true.
Eye care is available in Kenya but not affordable for many.
“In most cases, none of these people have ever had the opportunity to have an eye exam and have not had access to glasses, even basic reading glasses,” Baxter said.
The clinics depend on donated glasses. They don’t have the equipment and supplies that America has.
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“The equipment we use for eye care missions is designed to provide a quick, objective estimate of a person’s eyeglass correction,” Baxter said. “We don’t worry that the prescription will be perfect as we are rarely able to provide donated glasses specifically designed to correct her.”
The recipients are grateful for any help. Baxter told the story of a father and son who walked seven hours to attend the clinic. The father had a bad astigmatism and feared his son had it too. When he arrived at the clinic, the father said, “I’m not here for me. I don’t care if I get glasses, but please help my son.” At the end of the visit, they were able to provide both father and son with glasses.
Baxter participated with 10 different eye clinic teams. He estimated that each clinic served an average of 1,000 people, meaning they served over 10,000 people through these volunteer clinics.
Baxter’s son, Craig, traveled with him on some trips to the eye clinic. He became passionate about the needs and implored his father, “Dad, we must return to this place. These people really need us.” Sadly, Craig has passed away. But Kim is determined to fulfill his wish to help.
In Baxter’s words, “Our son Craig was a valuable member of the Eyecare mission team when we first visited the remote village of Shikunga in western Kenya 10 years ago. Craig became very dedicated to the team and fell in love with the people we wanted to serve. Now that Craig has passed away from this life, his words remain a living memory and continue to motivate me to continue the work Craig wanted us to do there in Kenya.”
Through connections with Rotary, Baxter has been able to build teams across the United States and internationally and raise funds and other donations to fulfill Craig’s dream.
The result – a new medical clinic being built in the remote rural village of Shikunga, near the town of Kakamega in western Kenya. Funding for this project comes from several Nebraska Rotary clubs along with individual donations. Once the clinic building is completed and fully equipped (within the next two to three years), medical mission teams from the United States will rotate to provide a wide range of services, including eye care, dental, maternal and pediatric and general medical services.
Village leaders have named the clinic the Craig Memorial Rotary Clinic in honor of the late Craig Baxter.
When Rotary Club of Lincoln South President DeEtta Vrana heard about the clinics and the efforts of these volunteer teams, she asked club members to donate glasses to give to Baxter for his next clinic. They collected a total of 94 pairs of glasses for the team’s next clinic assignment.
Vrana said as she presented the glasses to Baxter, “When we see the images you have shared of clinic patients and are able to see images and words more clearly, we know that these donated glasses will be of great help to your next clinic.” will be useful.”
In doing so, the Lincoln South Rotary Club has realized the Rotary motto, Serve to Change Lives.
For information about the Rotary Club of Lincoln South, visit www.lincolnsouthrotary.org. From www.rotary.org: “No challenge is too great for Rotary. For more than 110 years, we have bridged cultures and connected continents to work for peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, promote clean water and sanitation, and fight disease.”