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Jul 28, 2016

BCVI Turns 35

Three decades plus five…that’s the length of time the BCVI has been around in Belize. To mark that milestone, the N.G.O. held an anniversary celebration this morning. The Executive Director, Carla Ayers Musa, says the gamut of services offered has grown tremendously over the years. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, BCVI, is celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary. Today at the Lion’s Den on Princess Margaret Drive, the executive shared its 2015 report on the services and programs it offers to the public. Now people are of the general opinion that BCVI only offers eye tests and glasses, but there is much more. Aside from a yearly camp for its young patients, the N.G.O. has a comprehensive program that treats thousand of Belizeans.

 

Carla Ayres Musa

Carla Ayres Musa, Executive Director, BCVI

“In 2015, we were able to see and treat thousands of people for various diseases and we would really like to stress a lot the importance of us being a nonprofit organization. So that means that all the funds that we do receive go straight back into our programs and the rehabilitation program is one where we see the most, I would say, heartwarming work because we are working with so many children, but at the same time, it’s the most difficult program because we do everything for free. So we have to focus in our primary eye care program to boost that up so that whatever fees we collect from services there are able to filter into rehab and the same goes for secondary program as well.”

 

But while the BCVI makes its own glasses, there is also the secondary eye care program where its professionals treat eye conditions and perform surgeries. Those whose eyesight cannot be restored are referred to the N.G.O.’s rehab program.

 

Carla Ayres Musa

“We have five clinics throughout the country and those are our satellite clinics in addition to the one here in Belize City. People come in and say oh I have a problem with my eyes. And in those clinics we saw fourteen thousand people in one year; in the program where people come in who cannot be helped with glasses, we saw over four thousand people there. So there are a lot of people that we are focusing on to help reduce blindness that is avoidable—whether it is glasses or cataract surgeries.”

 

A developing trend is diabetic retinopathy, which Executive Director Carla Ayres Musa says is treatable if detected early. Of the one thousand four hundred persons that were screened for blindness as a result of diabetes in 2015, fourteen percent were positively diagnosed—that’s just under two hundred.

 

Carla Ayres Musa

“We have a lot of young people who are coming to us, patients with diabetes who probably feel like oh, I’m not going to go blind from diabetes when in fact they are losing significant vision from uncontrolled diabetes and we are asking all patients with diabetes who are not seeing an ophthalmologist to come in for this free state of the art imaging program that we have. We have a camera in Belize City, we have one in Punta Gorda and we have one in Orange Walk. It is free of cost and we will be able to tell you if you are going blind because of diabetes. On our register of people who are blind, we have over one thousand three hundred people countrywide. And unfortunately with just two rehabilitation field officers to cover all the people over Belize that are blind, we have had to focus primarily on the students at school and younger children who are going to have longer years alive as being blind and we are focusing on newly blind clients as well. So those people who are learning how to adapt to a new lifestyle.”

 

But the N.G.O. has lost its primary donor of its programs after a thirty-four-year partnership.

 

Carla Ayres Musa

“Sights Savers International was our biggest partner for thirty-four years and in 2014, we received the last amount of funding from them. So 2015 was our first full year without their support. And thanks to the fees for services in our primary eye care program, we were able to keep ourselves sustainable. But in 2016, we are feeling a pinch from that. You know there are competitors, people don’t necessarily know about our services so they are not accessing them. So we are looking at how we can strengthen the primary eye care program and be as efficient as possible so that we can help feed whatever excess we are able to collect into our rehabilitation program. That really is where we are seeing the biggest struggle financially. And of course you have program cost—you are looking at the entire organization; we are not just looking at one particular program.”

 

The executive board members were also re-elected and their names announced at the event this morning. Duane Moody for News Five.

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