A few years ago, I was lucky enough to volunteer with VOSH International to perform ocular examinations for the underprivileged in Belize. It was one of the most incredible and memorable trips I have ever taken. Belize is a beyond-beautiful country with such friendly and kind people.
The first few days were spent on the beautiful beaches of Ambergris Caye, enjoying the sun and getting to know the rest of our volunteer group. Our group consisted of a few other optometrists and optometry students from the United States and Canada.
We went to two very different locations, but both had many similarities. There were so many people lined up each morning when we arrived that we had a hard time believing we’d be able to examine every one of them, but somehow, we managed to do it every day. Some had travelled from villages hours away to get their eyes examined. It was a surreal feeling knowing these people had come so far just to see us. It made me want to do my absolute best and make sure we didn’t turn anyone away. There were people of all ages waiting for us — children, the elderly, babies.
My favourite and most touching moment was when I examined an 8-year-old girl who had very poor eyesight. She had never had an eye exam before and her life was significantly impacted by her poor vision. We were able to find glasses that were close to her prescription, and the moment she put them on, her entire being changed. A huge smile spread across her face as she was seeing the world clearly for the first time. I will never forget that moment and I will never forget that girl.
It was a humbling moment. It deeply touched my heart to see how much the healthcare that we take for granted here in Canada meant to these people, and how life-changing a simple thing like glasses could be to someone like that little girl.
I can’t wait to do another eyecare mission. It is so fulfilling, and it is such a wonderful way to see the world and help those in need. It is something that is very near and dear to all of our hearts here at Airdrie/Calgary Family Eye Doctors and speaks to our core value of “changing lives through eye care.” I can’t think of a better way to do it!