The pain and suffering of blindness is incalculable. The restoration of sight is priceless. The mission of the Armenian Eye Care Project is to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia and to make 21st Century eye care accessible to every Armenian child and adult.
In 1992, a call came from the Armenian Minister of Health: "Help us fight the growing wave of blindness." Years of tragedy had taken a heavy toll on the dark eyes of Armenia, a country about the size of Maryland with three and one-half million people struggling toward a brighter future.
Nestled between Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan, Armenia suffered a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed more than 50,000 and injured many more. The same year war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, lasting six destructive years. By 1991, a major health care crisis existed and the call for help was issued. Teams of American ophthalmologists, many returning to their homeland, embarked on a mission to Armenia, taking with them medicine and equipment. Greater than half of the patients they treated were children and almost all were war casualties.
Roger Ohanesian, M.D., a Laguna Beach, California ophthalmologist, made his first visit to Armenia in 1992, and subsequently founded the Armenian Eye Care Project (AECP). Every year since, American ophthalmologists and reconstructive surgeons have traveled to Armenia twice a year, at their own expense, to bring hope and eye care to a people who view the American doctors as their last chance for sight.
In 2002, our Tenth Anniversary, the Armenian EyeCare Project expanded their program by launching a Seven-Year Initiative, "Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes," to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia. This is being accomplished through a comprehensive, integrated program focusing on (1) direct patient care; (2) medical education and training; (3) public education; (4) research; and (5) strengthening the Armenian eye care delivery system. At the same time, the EyeCare Project opened an office in Yerevan enabling them to have a year-round presence in Armenia.
Armenia's critical need for eye care is caused by a variety and severity of eye diseases not seen in other countries combined with serious, long-term eye trauma complications ómany from the land mines that still dot playgrounds and schoolyards. Particularly troubling is the alarming rate of childhood eye disease found in Armenian youth, including glaucoma and diabetes-related eye disease almost never seen in American youth and not manifested in Americans until their later years.
The Armenia EyeCare Project is a California nonprofit 501( c)(3) corporation. governed by a volunteer board of directors and financed entirely with donations.