The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 18, 2013

Trip to Kenya changed student’s life

At 23 years old, Erick Henderson already has some accomplishments under his belt — including an academic research paper published in a prestigious journal and a stint in Kenya, helping people with vision problems.

Henderson, who’s studying to be an optometrist, is co-author of the article “Observations on Eye Care in Lamu, Kenya,” published in the spring issue of The Journal of Global Health.

“It’s exciting that the first one I wrote got published in a prestigious journal,” he said. “It was exciting to see my name next to people from Harvard and Yale.”

While that was a thrill, helping people on the island — who are underserved in the area of eye care — was life changing for the young man.

“To put it simply, it was amazing,” he said in a telephone interview. “Helping to give someone sight, and improve their quality of life is so rewarding and humbling.”

Henderson moved from Normal to Memphis, Tenn., last week to begin studies at the Southern College of Optometry. A 2008 graduate of Danville High School, he is the son of Lon and Nancy Henderson of Danville.

He traveled to Kenya in the summer of 2011, and spent 10 days as a volunteer at the Lamu Center of Preventative Health. He and others performed reading evaluations and glaucoma checks for 340 patients and distributed 450 pairs of reading and sunglasses.

At the time, he was a student at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, majoring in biology and minoring in vocal performance. He received a bachelor’s degree in May 2012, and then did graduate students in biology at Illinois State University.

At Wesleyan, Henderson was president and founder of the Optometry Club. An anthropology professor, Rebecca Gearhart, discovered that he was an optometric technician who might use his portable optometry lens set to help people on the island. Thus, Henderson was invited to be part of the first temporary eye clinic.

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