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Seeing a brighter future

Bethlehem native to conduct research on eye care in Africa

Kevin Welch is a Bethlehem native, but he might be getting to the point he could call Africa a second home.

In August, the Tufts University graduate student will be departing for that country to undertake a research project for his thesis. As a global health student, he's been accepted as a research fellow for Unite For Sight, a global nonprofit that works to bring eye care to undeveloped areas of the world.

He'll be going to Accra, Ghana, where he will be living with doctors and nurses on the Unite For Sight team and working at their mobile clinic, where he'll pre-screen patients. That's a great opportunity for his research, he said.

The problem is a lot of the people who have the opportunity to go to these free clinics don't take it, Welch said. "They see glaucoma...as something that's not preventable, something that cant be cured, when in reality it can."

His findings will be going to the Global Impact Lab, which is Unite For Sight's research arm, and be published. Hopefully he'll be able to identify some ways to increase the number of people who take advantage of the free eye care.

In exchange for being hosted by Unite For Sight, Welch is raising money for the organization. He hopes to gather $1,700. With the average cost of a cataracts surgery being about $50, that sum could conceivably save the vision of 34 people living in poverty.

As a whole, Unite For Sight has performed over 43,000 surgeries overseas.

Welch is no stranger to the world of fundraising to cure disease overseas. In early 2010, he and fellow Bethlehem Central grad Katie O'Leary were part of an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and they ended up helping the group of young hikers raise $8,000 to combat obstetric fistulas, a condition that sometimes develops during childbirth in third-world countries and can kill the mother, but is easily fixed through an inexpensive surgery.

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