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The Deer Park Community

Rotarians touching lives across borders

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

HargerGuerrero2014IN OUR COMMUNITY
Every year groups of volunteer medical professionals led by Rotarians converge on the small city of Guerrero in Mexico to provide eye care and facial repair procedures to underprivileged individuals. As part of the Deer Park Rotary Club’s international projects, the club gives and participates in the Crystal Foundation, an organization dedicated to delivering care to the impoverished town.

Though the Crystal Foundation, Deer Park Rotary is among several clubs in the area that sends volunteer medical professionals to repair cataracts, cleft palates and other maladies in a mountainous region of Mexico. At the recent Deer Park Rotary luncheon, Walter Branson, an organizer of the Crystal Foundation’s trips, visited the club to talk about the organization’s missions and successes.

Branson is just one of the many volunteers who travel the city of Guerrero in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico to provide underprivileged individuals with treatments and aids.

The clinic was built through Rotary and is supported by three Texas clubs: Deer Park, Brazosport and an El Paso-based club. The clinic is also used by plastic surgeons at other times during the year to perform cleft palette surgeries, treat burn victims and perform other life-changing procedures.

Later this year volunteers will again make the trip to Guerrero to see patients with vision problems from all over Mexico and performing cataracts surgeries. It is estimated that with each trip they see 200 to 250 patients a day and perform 120 to 150 cataracts surgeries over the extent of the trip. This equates to more than $1 million worth of procedures in the United States.

“Every dollar that is spent down there becomes $100 in services,” said Deer Park Rotarian Dr. Merlyn Harger, a long-time Deer Park optometrist who has made more than 30 trips with the Crystal Foundation. All of the supplies and procedures are donated. Visitors to the clinic do not pay for the services.

Branson said the clinic was established in 1980 and in 1985, it received a grant from Rotary International to establish a mobile clinic.

“Later on, we were able to get some land donated and we established the full time clinic,” he said. Through the efforts of other Rotary Clubs, more facilities are being established at the site.

“We do four eye clinic and one, sometimes two plastic surgery clinics and in the summer we’ve established an OB/GYN clinic that visits,” Branson said. “We’ve even discovered some cancers that have saved the lives of our patients.”

The clinic also provides dental services.

Branson said Deer Park Rotary has historically been a great supporter of the clinic.

“Most everything we have at the clinic is donated, including more than $1 million worth of medicine and supplies,” he said.

Although Rotary has built the facility and supports the basic costs of the clinics they did not provide the equipment. Most of the equipment for the clinic was donated, as are the lens implants and any prescriptions and medicated eye drops according to Harger. Then there's the cost for the volunteers.

It costs $900 per volunteer for each trip. The Rotary attempts to ease the costs where possible and many look for sponsors for their trips.

While many of the patients are suffering from extreme ailments, there are also many who just require a simple solution to help improve their quality of life.

"A lot of times patients can get by with over-the-counter readers so I'll buy 400 to 600 pairs before I go down there," said Harger. "A lot of them work outside in the apple orchards because that's the big industry down there. If they work outside I'll give them sunglasses and I'll bring 200 to 300 pairs every time I go."

To assist with the clinic’s cost, the Deer Park Rotary Club presented a $2,000 check to the Branson and the Crystal Foundation.

To find out more about the Crystal Foundation or to volunteer or donate, visit