A team of local optometrists is focusing on helping improve the vision of countless individuals.
To mark Eye Health Month this October, Don Porter, Kim Elcheshen and Gillian Robinson from 20/20 Eye Care (2-835 Dakota St.) will be taking part in the World Sight Day Challenge on Oct. 9 and 10. Porter and Elcheshen are co-owners of the practice and Robinson is an associate optometrist.
As part of the Optometry Giving Sight initiative, community members and patients are invited to join the challenge and donate to help underserved communities that don’t have access to eye exams or glasses.
To observe World Sight Day, the St. Vital-based optometrists will be holding a raffle, where donations will be entered to win a prize pack. Individuals are also invited to drop off and donate pairs of used glasses, which Porter will be taking to Mexico in November as part of a team delivering eye care to locals in a makeshift clinic.
Elcheshen said the team will accept items including sunglasses, reading glasses, bifocals and "anything that is wearable, so long it’s not broken."
The Royalwood resident added that Optometry Giving Sight has made bracelets for individuals who donate $5 or more — because that’s the cost of an eye exam and a pair of glasses in a developing country.
"It’s important for us to be able to be able to avoid preventable blindness, as this can change the quality of life for an individual," Elcheshen said, noting the initiative is focusing on children this year. "If a child is able to see and read, it can make the world of difference to his or her education."
"In general terms, we want to stress the importance of eye exams for children and getting their eyes checked before grade school. In fact, 80% of learning is visual, so if you’re able to focus clearly it helps with concentration and learning."
Porter, who has been on previous missions to Mexico and Peru, is looking forward to volunteering his time to make a difference in the lives of Mexicans next month.
"We’ll be seeing between 3,000 and 4,200 people in an eight or nine-day period when we’re there, so it keeps us hopping. It’s definitely a working holiday," said Porter, who has been going on such missions for the past 12 years.
The St. Norbert resident noted the team takes its own equipment and focuses mainly on giving eye exams and, where possible, performing minor surgeries.
"It’s about giving back to people who don’t have the same advantages as we do. We can do some minimal care relating to eye infections and foreign bodies," Porter said.
"It’s amazing how it turns people’s lives around. It’s really satisfying and they really do appreciate it. They’ll come to the clinic and wait for hours and hours. We’re expecting to take between 15,000 and 20,000 pairs of glasses.
"We’re just trying to raise awareness for the need for these sorts of things and we’re always looking for volunteers on the trip, who will learn on the job. It’s a little bit of a sacrifice in terms of time and money, but it’s worth it."
For more details, or to donate, visit 20-20eyecare.ca or call 204-953-2020.