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USU students gain clear vision of Peru’s needs at open-air eye clinic

August 10th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

Story & Photos by Satenik Sargsyan

TRUJILLO, Peru—USU business students participating in a summer tour of South American businesses joined the Hope Alliance eye clinic project to provide Peruvians with the opportunity to see the world through clear-colored glasses.

The students volunteered in an open-air clinic in Trujillo, Peru, where the Hope Alliance was armed with necessary equipment to test vision and provide glasses to those in need.

“Glasses just knock on our doors,” said Richard Kendall, Peru Eye Clinic project director. “We ask for glasses, and people donate from all over the world. We always tell people that every pair matters.”

Hope Alliance set up nine different stations at the clinic where people take their medical cards, previously designed by the program participants. The thread-and-needle, eye-chart and prescription testing prepare the patients for a meeting with an optometrist. Peruvians often wait patiently long hours in the sun for their turn.

“Every year we change the procedure,” Kendall said. “We muddle through to see what works and what doesn’t. Last year we had color-coded cards but it turned out to be too complicated. This year we decided to stick to one card. We are always looking for new suggestions and better technology.”

Political science and business sophomore Andi Barlow said that she could relate to every one of the people who came in. She said she felt “bitter happy” for people who don’t get glasses.

“Sometimes they don’t understand that it means that they have good eyesight,” Barlow said. “They wait long hours and walk out with nothing.”

Nine-year-old Alejandro’s story didn’t leave anyone indifferent. Despite the fact that Alejandro had a common prescription for eyeglasses, the glasses the volunteers found through an organized database were always too big.

“He was just sitting there with his puppy eyes and waiting,” said USU intern Humberto Alba. “I had never felt so powerless.”

After about half-hour search, the 13th pair of glasses fit Alejandro perfectly. He sat in the adjusting station for five minutes observing his surroundings with the same puppy eyes. The world wasn’t blurry any more.

“At that moment I realized that what we were doing right there and right then mattered big-time for those people,” Barlow said. “I cried.”

The Hope Alliance has taken the eyeglass clinic project to four different continents, Kendall said.

“The Peru project started in the jungles,” Kendall said. “We had a bunch of donated glasses. We took them to the jungles, poured them out and asked people to take them. We now help people in Mexico, Africa and Asia.”

In time, Kendall and his partner-wife Jane developed a network of people willing to donate computers, equipment and professional assistance to facilitate the project.

“We partner with worldwide communities in need to create change in quality of life,” Kendall said. “We provide these people with basic human needs, things that we take for granted.”

Like a clear vision for their lives.


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