Author: Dr. Tiffany Sieunarine, B.S.c., O.D.
Did you donate your old glasses and sunglasses to our office? Well, they may have made their way to Guatemala with me on my recent mission trip. I participated with Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) Ontario, a smaller chapter of the larger VOSH group. We travelled as a team of 13 Canadians (including 1 ophthalmologist, 7 optometrists, 1 pharmacist, 1 optician and 3 non-health professionals) to La Union, a mountainous village in the municipality of Zacapa in eastern Guatemala. We packed numerous hockey bags full of donated glasses, sunglasses, eye drops, hats, t-shirts, kids clothes and surgical supplies. It was a long trek to our final destination, but it was worth it!
Eye Health Care
We were welcomed with open arms by community members as medical resources in the remote areas are very limited or nonexistent. Our clinic was setup in an old church building that is now used for community events. A team of local doctors, nurses, interpreters and other volunteers also worked alongside us to ensure everything ran smoothly and that we were well taken care of. For six straight days people of all ages lined up outside our doors in anticipation of much needed eye health care.
Each day brought its challenges, some of which included power outages, excessive rainfall making transportation difficult, language barriers and broken equipment. However, the opportunity we had to provide eye care for so many people far outweighed these issues. Over 900 patients were seen by our team, multiple pairs of glasses and sunglasses were distributed and 52 ocular surgeries were performed or scheduled.
Uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension plagued the older population of patients we saw as a result of the lack of accessible and affordable health care. Unfortunately for some it meant permanent vision loss. For many though, spectacles and or cataract surgery would greatly enhance their quality of life allowing them to be able to read again, return to a job to provide for their family or go to school for the first time!
New Vision for Alex
Surgery was provided for a little boy named Alex who had been injured at a younger age leaving him blind from traumatic cataracts. Thanks to the expertise of the team of surgeons and nurses, and his brave little heart, he underwent cataract surgery on two separate days for each eye. The procedures were successful and he will now be able to attend school!
Muchas Gracias a Todos!
It was truly a blessing being a part of this team and I hope that sharing this experience will encourage others to consider how they can help meet needs in our local community or abroad. On behalf of VOSH Ontario, a big thank you again to those who dropped off their used eyeglasses and sunglasses to the office. Your donated eyewear was greatly appreciated! Feel free to continue doing so as we will be collecting year-round for future projects!
On a side note, you may have heard that volcano Fuego erupted during our time in Guatemala. Pictured behind me (in the cover photo), with ash still spewing out, is Fuego. We remained a safe distance away to admire first hand one of the most fascinating wonders of our planet!
About Dr. Tiffany Sieunarine
After completing her undergrad in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Waterloo, Tiffany went on to graduate in 2011 as a Doctor of Optometry. Outside of the office, Tiffany enjoys cycling, tennis, playing flute in a local orchestra and travelling when time permits. She has also participated in Medical Mission Trips to Mexico and Bolivia. Feel free to call Insight Eye Care at 519-885-2020 to book your family’s eye exams with Dr. Tiffany Sieunarine.