A concerned Binghamton University student is on a humanitarian mission: to conduct a campus-run eyeglasses drive to aid needy villagers in Cameroon.
Gabriella Gallus, a senior double-majoring in biology and Russian studies, planned the project as a part of a larger effort headed by her sister and former BU alumna, Julia Gallus, to collect old and used eyeglasses and distribute them to the African locals.
Gallus hopes to set up collection boxes around campus right before Thanksgiving and continue the drive throughout the end of the fall 2010 semester.
The donated eyeglasses will be shipped to a proposed clinic in the region and Gallus hopes that the local optometrists will be able to match up the prescription lenses with the villagers’ distorted vision.
The initiative began in August in the Vestal area, when collection boxes were placed in prominent locations including Cyber Caf√É© West, Lourdes Primary Care Associates and Columbia Mutual Life Insurance.
Posters titled ‘Share Your Vision’ were placed throughout the city of Vestal advertising the program.
So far, Gallus has collected 428 pairs of used eyeglasses. The greatest contributors who sent Gallus eyeglasses, usually as a response to her posters, were most often friends and family, and contributions from a local eye doctor in Endicott who donated around 100 frames.
Gallus’ goal is to collect 1,000 frames by the end of this semester.
Once the glasses are collected, Gallus plans to ship the eyeglasses to her sister in Cameroon through several nonprofit organizations such as Lions Club International and the Eyes on Africa Foundation, which participate in such humanitarian works.
Gallus’ inspiration for the project was spurred by the realization that the proposal required minimal efforts for a real impact.
‘I am so passionate about this because it is something so simple ‘ that is doable,’ Gallus said.
She used her summer program as a test run to see how responsive people would be to the effort. The results of raising around 400 pairs in a short amount of time increased her ambition to expand her project to all of campus.
Julia Gallus first proposed the project while stationed in Bandrefam, a small village in the Western province of Cameroon. When she was teaching English to the local teenagers, Julia realized that no one was wearing eyeglasses. She began to hear complaints from her students that they could not read the articles she gave out because they had trouble seeing.
The complaints compelled Julia to begin a project overseas to collect eyeglasses for the people in her village. According to Julia Gallus, when she found out that the price of simple reading eyeglasses is the same as sending a child to primary school for a year, she decided to reach out to her local community.
Gallus has reached out to groups on campus to rally up volunteers to help with her goals. BU’s chapter of Amnesty International is one of the groups that is willing to contribute to the initiative and hopes to raise awareness.
Gallus hopes to use their enthusiasm along with other student organizations to set up a committee of 10 members to orchestrate these efforts.
‘I think with the help of Binghamton University students and community members we will be able to reach our goal of collecting 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses,’ said Erin Flannagan, a senior majoring in management and a member of the committee.
Students will be able to drop off their used glasses in one of the designated collection boxes.
Those interested in helping with the program can contact Gallus at email@example.com