New York, NY — May 24, 2016 — Helen Keller International (HKI) is pleased to announce its partnership with quality men's grooming product manufacturer GorillaKilla to provide urgently needed tools and education for safe at home epilation practices for hundreds in Cameroon and Ethiopia suffering from blinding trachoma.
Trachoma is a chronic eye infection and the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world; an estimated 84 million people globally are in need of treatment. Repeated infection can lead to scarring of the eyelid, causing lashes to turn inward, scratch the eyeball and eventually scrape the cornea. This stage, known as trichiasis, leaves individuals to slowly and painfully blink themselves blind. Most commonly found in poverty-stricken communities with limited access to clean water and sanitation, women are 2-3 times more likely to develop trichiasis due to their role as primary caregivers of children.
While Helen Keller International is working with governments throughout Africa to increase access to affordable corrective surgeries for the condition, the backlog in many countries numbers in the thousands, leaving many forced to wait months or even years for treatment. In the meantime, some choose to manage the condition with epilation, a process in which they pluck their eyelashes to prevent scratching. While the practice is common, those in the poorest communities often cannot afford safe, sanitary instruments needed to prevent further infection and harm.
HKI has partnered with GorillaKilla in providing handcrafted, high-quality tweezers with rounded tips and instructions to targeted communities in Cameroon so that those who choose to manage the condition with epilation can do so safely.
Taking the partnership beyond typical vendor-client relationships, GorillaKilla CEO Ken Adams has been personally involved in this pilot project and become a champion of raising more awareness about trachoma.
“Once I learned about this disease—how it afflicted millions of people yet was something I’d never heard of, and how painful it was, and how many people were dealing with it every day—I had to do more than just supply the product and say good luck,” Adams recently explained. “For me, personally, as a product developer, it became about thinking ‘humanity’ as opposed to ‘vanity.’”
As part of this journey to a deeper understanding, Adams met and discussed the practice of epilation with HKI staff members and even performed epilation on himself. With this new knowledge he worked closely with HKI on everything from product testing to packaging and quality assessment.
“Everyone at GorillaKilla is involved and really dedicated to this particular product, knowing what it is for and the people who need it,” Adams said. “Our lead times have been cut in half, staff are volunteering hours, morale is increasing and we’re now working on a master craftsman program.”
One hundred fifty pairs of the round-tip tweezers are currently being tested with target communities and, based on feedback from users and program staff, GorillaKilla will continue to work with HKI to further develop the product to meet the needs of those living with trachoma in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and other countries.
“Partners with this extraordinary level of engagement are extremely valuable and align well with our mission and values,” said Dan Fiedler, HKI’s Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. “We admire Ken’s commitment to this work, having gone from someone who knew nothing about trachoma and neglected tropical diseases to emerging as a great champion for those less fortunate who are afflicted with this terrible condition.”
About Helen Keller International
Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International’s mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health, and nutrition. Visit www.hki.orgfor more information.