Eagle Scout project for giving sight in East Timor
“Help me bring vision to the people of Aileu, East Timor by outfitting their health clinic with some much needed eye care equipment for my Eagle Project,” writes Jesse Orr.
With his firm commitment to helping people in need, Jesse set in motion a campaign that has inspired friends and family in his hometown – and around the world.
Jesse is a Life Rank Scout from Varsity Team 1550 located in the Washington Puget Sound region in the United States. As part of his Scout requirements for the Eagle Rank he undertook to complete a project that serves a local or world community.
He spoke with his Scout Leader, Brian Hatch, on the many options to gaining his Eagle Rank. “When it came time to pick a project we talked about how cool it would be to help set up an eye clinic in a place that really needed it,” says Jesse.
Brian is an optometrist who has travelled the world in his role with the U.S. Navy and he had spent time in East Timor (Timor-Leste), which is in the Indonesian archipelago. He suggested that Jesse contact Optometry Giving Sight, and after consultation with Micheal Knipe from Provision Optometric Teams (PVOT) in Australia, it was agreed that the eye clinic in Aileu would be a worthy beneficiary of Jesse’s project.
The project is also close to Optometry Giving Sight, as they have funded PVOT’s mentoring and outreach activities in East Timor over the past 8 years. The project has evolved from an initial focus on service delivery to establishing an infrastructure of equipped clinics and trained eye care workers to staff them.
Jesse understands that not having eye exams and glasses is the main cause of visual impairment in poor countries. In East Timor, many of its people live on less than 50 cents per day. 70% of the blind people there are blind because they don't have glasses or they have eye diseases or suffered an eye injury that went untreated.
The Aileu eye clinic identified that 10 different pieces of eye care equipment valued at over $US15,000 were needed to provide basic eye care. Jesse went to work and set up his official project fundraising page, facebook page and created a YouTube video outlining his endeavour.
Following a visit to the American Academy of Optometry meeting in Seattle in 2013, Jesse was able to secure the donation of a Mentor Slit Lamp from Spectrum Ophthalmics and iCare-USA donated a tonometer, which measures eye pressure for glaucoma.
Jesse and his scout team had a hand in preparing some of the equipment themselves. The Slit Lamp needed a stand to hold it and move it. Knowing his Scout Team members had some good mechanical and welding skills from earning the welding merit badge, they designed a mount for the Slit Lamp. Even Jesse’s grandad got involved by providing some essential materials. After some safety checking by biomedical repair technicians at the Bremerton Navy Hospital the all clear was given for the now working slit lamp.
Jesse, wanted to take it to Timor Leste himself, but it would have cost over $2,400 just for him and he couldn’t go alone. The cost of sending it as freight was even more prohibitive. Dr. Hatch had contacted a member of the Timor Leste Army, Lieutenant Oki Domingos, who Brian had met on a previous military deployment, to see when the best times would be to try and get the equipment to Aileu due to poor road conditions during the rainy season.
It turned out that Oki happened to be in Hawaii attending a seminar with the Asian Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS). Oki agreed to help coordinate the transportation of the equipment to Timor Leste for much less money via his sponsors within the Office of Defence Cooperation. “It was a prayer answered,” says Jesse. “I wanted to show that all the work me and my scout friends did really made it to the people that need it. So this was a miracle”.
Jesse and his mother packed their bags and headed to Hawaii to meet Lt. Domingos where Jesse made a formal presentation of his project and coordinated the eye care equipment transfer to Timor Leste.
“Jesse did a spectacular job presenting in front of over 80 people from 50 different countries in the region that were attending the same course as Lt. Domingos,” says Brian. “Everyone was clambering over him to get photos with him afterwards and he even had a gentleman from Bangladesh offer his daughter’s hand in marriage. Needless to say he and his mother were flattered, and I think the magnitude of his efforts and the impact it will have on the people of Aileu really hit home in that moment.”
At the time of writing, the equipment has arrived in East Timor and is awaiting transportation to the Aileu clinic. Jesse has submitted his report and should find out in the next few months if his efforts were sufficient for him to be awarded the Eagle Rank.
Jesse certainly has our vote!! We will let you know the official outcome on our Facebook page.