Discard Old Glasses, Change Someone’s Life
Those little boxes and receptacles that read “Recycle for Sight” are so commonplace they can easily blend into the background. Two Sioux Falls optometrists are encouraging us all to make use of them.
The simple act of tossing your old eyeglasses into them will honestly renew a person’s life.
Avera Medical Group optometrists Gregory Hill, OD, and Paul Draayer, OD, know because they’ve been on multiple mission trips to countries such as Mexico and Jamaica where donated lenses and frames are put to great use through the efforts of an international service called VOSH International.
“It’s a tiny action that makes a remarkable difference, and South Dakotans alone contribute tremendously each year, with 60,000 pairs of glasses coming from collection boxes in the state – that’s a huge volume,” Hill said. “When you donate, you become part of a team effort that serves people in need both overseas and here in the U.S. When you donate your old glasses, or your time by helping sort, clean and distribute them during missions, you can have a profound effect on someone’s life.”
Worldwide Service Groups
The organization, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity/International, is something Hill learned about as a college student. His colleague, Paul Draayer, OD, is gearing up for a new mission trip that happens February 2018. He started volunteer efforts with VOSH two years ago with a trip to Mexico.
“We’ll be returning to Mexico, and the experience is really moving – the people will fold you into their community and their gratitude is overwhelming,” Draayer said. “We spend the day conducting exams, so we can provide people lenses of the proper power for their vision. In many cases, they might not realize their vision has just gradually deteriorated, so when they get the glasses that help them see better, it’s rewarding.”
Helping All Ages
Hill said in Jamaica, more than 1,000 patients, ranging from children to grandparents, came through the twisting line to get a combined vision and eye-health screening. They then are fitted to the closest prescription they can find for their condition. When recipients put on the glasses for the first time and everything changes, it’s as good as it gets.
“It does change lives, and we’re seeing folks from 6 months old to 100. Some folks will wait all day to get in to see us, and we collaborate with local physicians and optometrists to get everything set up,” he said. “You really see the appreciation in these folks’ faces – it’s nice to be part of making a difference, one person at a time.”
Both optometrists said it fits well with the overall Avera mission. But Hill said the change in perspective is a two-way street.
“I’d say safely that it probably has had as much impact on me as it does for those who get the glasses,” he said. “That’s why we want to remind everyone who gets a new pair or who has some old glasses lying in a drawer somewhere – please donate them. Don’t discard your backup pair, but use those collection boxes. You’ll be part of a team doing great work. You can help us make a difference.”