For many students, making a difference in their worlds and communities is at the cornerstone of the college experience. Senior Elaine Brantley, a former RCPD Tower Guard volunteer, has taken this idea to the next level, dedicating her time to a cause that helps hundreds of thousands throughout the world through Unite for Sight.
Unite for Sight is an international non-governmental organization that works in communities around the globe to provide eye health services, including preventable blindness. The organizations 5,200 volunteers work in communities both in the US and abroad to promote awareness and provide eye care services to more than 600,000 people. Four main programs carry out Unite for Sight's mission, including an international volunteer program, a global impact corps, local chapters on college campuses, and an annual global health conference. Brantley founded the MSU chapter and has since been involved with the organization on many levels.
Brantley's experience helping students achieve academic success without eyesight inspired her to take this initiative overseas. "It's easy to make a difference- cataract surgery in Asia and Africa costs $50. It's pretty cool you can save someone's vision for $50," she said. Most developing nations lack the resources to aide those with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of loss of eyesight like in the United States; however, efforts such as Unite for Sight help reduce this obstacle.
After joining Tower Guard her sophomore year, Brantley's interest in disabilities sparked. She enjoyed working with sight impaired students and recognized that developing countries lack support for those with disabilities. "I see how people living with disabilities utilize the RCPD, and in many developing countries there is no infrastructure to help people. Sometimes it can be as simple as a pair of sunglasses," she said. Brantley participated in a medical mission in the Dominican Republic and recognized her interest in helping people through medicine.
This fall, Brantley organized a fundraising and awareness event to gain support for Unite for Sight. The November 14th event featured diverse elements of the MSU community. Students from the Latin-American Culture Organization, Coalition of Indian Undergrad Students, SCOUT BANANA, and other organizations at MSU and across Michigan participated in making the event a success.
The RCPD supported Brantley's efforts with a funding contribution. RCPD Director Michael Hudson said, "Elaine's service to RCPD registered students made a difference for many. I'm delighted that our donor-supported Persons with Disabilities Empowerment fund exists enabling RCPD sponsorship of her continued effort on behalf of people with disabilities. Domestically, we increasingly realize that disabilities require adaptive techniques and tools yet this awareness is not globally understood. This collaborative effort brought a sense of hope and possibility to people who formerly considered blindness a life-ending prospect."
Brantley's hard work has lead to her Spring Semester trip to Ghana, where she worked with a Unite for Sight partner eye clinic to screen for eye disease, implement education programs, and coordinate sight-restoring surgery for children and adults. Her work will focus on Muslim communities, working especially with women. Another part of Unite for Sight's work in Ghana includes working in refugee camps to conduct preliminary exams and refer patients to doctors. She said, "One of Unite for Sight's strengths is its ability to gather community support to help the world. Saving someone's vision is saving their life."
To learn more about Unite for Sight, visit www.uniteforsight.org.
To donate to Brantley's fundraising efforts, visit Elaine Brantley's Fundraising Page