MGSH alumna to open eye clinic in rural Guatemala
by Grace Pastoor
SUN Newspapers Intern
A Maple Grove High School alumna will make the move of a lifetime this January in order to start a low-cost eye clinic in rural Guatemala.
Southern College of Optometry graduate Alisha McAfee, formerly Alisha Duffy, began the process of setting up the eye clinic nearly two years ago. She and her husband Kim McAfee have devoted time to research, fundraising, travel and education and are almost ready to start their journey.
Alisha said she was inspired to start an eye clinic after multiple mission trips to Central America.
“I went to Central America before optometry school and in the village a lot of people were asking me about eye care,” she said. “I saw how important it was and how there was such a lack of eye care in underdeveloped areas.”
After they made the decision to start the eye clinic, the McAfees began to research possible locations. They wanted to join an already-established clinic and eventually settled on one run by Mission Guatemala, a non-profit missionary organization.
The McAfees then began fundraising through social media and their website, alittlemoresalt.com. They had raised 11,000 dollars by the end of June and hope to raise a total of 25,000 dollars. The McAfees have purchased the necessary equipment and have shipped it to Guatemala.
Alisha said the process took a lot of time and required patience.
“It tested our patience so much. One thing I learned is that even though something takes a long time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it,” she said. “It was that we need this one thing, we didn’t know if it was going to take a day, a week, a month, few months and you just kind of sit there and hope it works out and everything has so it’s pretty cool.”
Alisha said that in addition to running the eye clinic, the couple hopes to be involved in other Mission Guatemala projects and visit schools to perform vision screenings.
Kim said their clinic will serve mostly indigenous Mayans who live in poverty. It is located in the western highlands of Guatemala, two hours from the capitol. He said he hopes to help improve the daily lives of the people living in the area.
The McAfees will also not get paid, as their work will be 100 percent funded by donations from people who believe in their cause, Alisha stated.
“We’re hopefully going to make small incremental differences and be able to have something that’s sustainable that truly helps the people there improve their lives,” Kim said. “If you can help a few people perform their jobs better or kids be able to do better in school just because their vision improves, I mean that’s potentially a big deal for them for their entire life.”
Alisha said she is excited to immerse herself in Guatemalan culture and learn about the residents of the highlands.
“I’m a big people person, like when I meet people different from me. I want to know what their family is like, where they live and how their life is different from mine,” she said. “I think the most exciting part for me is still to come, to be immersed in a community that’s so different but really get to know them for who they are.”
To learn more about The McAfee’s project or to donate, visit alittlemoresalt.com.
Compiled by Grace Pastoor, Sun Newspapers editorial intern