Bringing the gift of sight to someone who may have never known what the world really looks like is something few people have a chance to experience in their lifetime.
Having volunteered in such a capacity on outreach missions in Chile and Mexico, Langford-based optometrist Gurpreet Leekha has witnessed firsthand the difference a pair of glasses or the reversal of a debilitating condition can make for an impoverished child or adult. “It’s one of the most amazing experiences you can have as a caregiver,” he said. “It’s life-changing.”
His work in poorer areas of these Latin-American countries helped inspire him to get involved with Optometry Giving Sight. The global organization raises funds, collects used eyeglasses, and trains eye care professionals to work in underserved countries, as a way of bringing community vision centres and eye care services to people who might otherwise not be able to afford or have access to them.
Last week on World Sight Day, Leekha’s clinic and retail store, Eye Etiquette Optical Boutique, matched every dollar donated toward Optometry Giving Sight.
Store acting manager Kelsey Impett said people may not know that a mere $5 can cover the cost of an eye exam and a pair of glasses in a developing country such as Haiti. She said densely populated areas of the country may only have a handful of eye care centres, which makes the work of Optometry Giving Sight and its long list of participating professionals and merchants even more critical.
“It’s pretty important to make the community aware of the importance of eyeglasses,” Impett said.
The fundraising for the cause goes on all year, she said, as does the collecting of used pairs of glasses, as well as spare parts – “they can all be used,” she said.
As well as accepting donations of cash, which she said can go further in poorer countries than in Canada, the shop collects eyeglasses for the Westshore Lions. The service club gathers used glasses and hearing aids to be refurbished and passed on to individuals and families in financial crisis.
For more information on the local campaigns, visit Eye Etiquette at 189-2401C Millstream Rd. in Millstream Village or go to eyeetiquetteoptical.ca.
To date, Optometry Giving Sight has disbursed more than US $10 million in funding from donors and sponsors to 72 projects in 42 countries. For more information on its work, visit givingsight.org.