Mercer Volleyball Player Sets Sights on Africa

April 8, 2011

Media Contact: Andy Stabell, stabell_al@mercer.edu , (478) 301-5219

Amiee Frutchey has perfect vision.  For any doubters, look no further than the 1,125 digs she has in her Mercer volleyball career as a testimony of her 20/20 eyesight.  The hand-eye coordination involved in tracking down a ball spiked at 60 mph requires some of the most precise vision in athletics.

So, some may find her partnership with Unite For Sight a bit odd. But for the Gresham, Ore. native, the organization provides a service that speaks to her.

“It’s hard for us comprehend how much of an issue blindness is in under developed countries,” Frutchey said.  “Not only blindness due to old age or cataracts, but issues related to lack of proper protection from the sun, malnourishment and accidents that can cause blindness for life.”

That’s why Frutchey is making preparations to embark on a 6,000 mile journey to Accra, Ghana for participation in a month-long campaign aimed at improving eyesight for those living the Western African country.

From May 20 through June 20, Frutchey will work with a partner eye clinic to screen for eye disease, implement education programs and coordinate sight-restoring surgery for children and adults.  Her journey will take her from working at the local hospital in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, into the deepest parts of the region, where she will be part of a team that enters remote villages to screen up to 1,000 natives a day.

In reality, Frutchey’s journey started months before her departure date of May 19.  In order to be accepted as a volunteer for Unite for Sight, she had to pass a detailed application process aimed at securing only the most dedicated workers.

After acceptance, her preparation for the departure included another lofty requirement – raising $1,700 and securing 500 pairs of eyeglasses to take with her on the trip.

“With the help of the Lions Club, I’ve been able to collect the 500 pairs of eyeglasses to take along,” Frutchey said.  “I’m going to need to raise about $1,000 more before I reach my minimum of $1,700.”

In addition to the demands of fund raising, Frutchey’s journey also includes another barrier – the challenge of learning a foreign language.

The principal language in Ghana is Twi, a dialect that Frutchey has been preparing to speak for the last several months. One of her main resources for developing the ability to communicate with the natives effectively has been a Youtube video created by members of the Unite for Sight organization.

The challenges associated with her humanitarian effort have elicited various responses – astonishment, charitable support, and concern.

“Everyone is really supportive, occasionally people will say things like ‘Oh my goodness, what have you gotten yourself into’.” Frutchey remarked. “My friends and family have donated money towards the cause and sent words of encouragement.  Of course my dad is nervous about me going overseas.”

Nineteen hours of college credit, offseason training in preparation of her senior year on the volleyball court and the rigors of preparing for an unfamiliar journey may seem overwhelming, but Frutchey insists she hasn’t had much time to worry.

“I haven’t had time to process it,” Frutchey said.  “I’ve been working on all the tangible things. I have requirements for the program that have to be finished by April 20 so that I has been taking up a lot of my time."

Providing she meets the minimum contribution, Frutchey’s preparatory success will be greeted by 30 days of constant demand as a Unite for Sight representative.  Time the college junior would most likely have been spending with family in Oregon or traveling.

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