Optical Mission to Mexico  2014

What do we do with all those recycled eyeglasses?

Some go to Mexico, accompanied by thirty Lions and friends, on a mission sponsored by MD36 (Oregon) and MD37. Two members from the South Edmonton Lions Club also went on this trip.  For logistical reasons the glasses on this trip were American, but there were some 9,000 pairs of them, as well sunglasses, soft cases, and an assortment of small gifts such as toothbrushes, toiletries, baseball caps, T-shirts, and the like.

In Mexico, organization, venue, logistics, and hospitality were organized by the Juchipila Lions Club. Juchipila is about 120 km north of Guadalajara and is an agricultural town of just over 12,000 people.

The clinic operated for five days from 9am to a theoretical 5pm – not one day ended early, and the longest ran until after 8 pm.

 Registration was followed by testing for diabetes and high blood  pressure, an eye chart screening (with pictograms for those who  couldn’t read), evaluation by a vision screener that provided the 

 prescription, reviewed by an optometrist who also verified  possible problems such as cataracts and certain medical  deficiencies. Where possible, clients were given recycled  glasses with appropriate prescriptions. In other cases where no  match was possible, clients received reading glasses to provide  some improvement. In several cases where the client was totally  blind, the mission provided white canes and some initial training in their use. 

All glasses were custom fitted – adjustment of arms, replacement of nose pads, etc. Sunglasses and clip-ons were available to almost all clients – these are important in reducing strain and damage to the eyes caused by prolonged exposure to bright sun. This was followed by the presentation of protective cases, a final cleaning, and a small gift of personal items.

The results?

  • 1910 clients served; almost all issued with glasses
  • 186 clients referred; most with cataracts (usually for both eyes) and a few with other ailments of the eye. These people’s surgeries
  •  will be underwritten by donations from the Juchipila Lions through agreement and deep discount with a Mexican ophthalmologist.
  • 59 pairs of lenses special ordered. These are to be made locally by a charitable optometrist for about $20 per lens, and fitted to frames chosen from the 9,000 recycled eyeglasses taken to 
  • Juchipila. These special orders were mostly restricted to children, both for the added importance of good eyesight for them, and the cost. $20 per lens is cheap, even in Mexican terms, but the provider of these lenses can’t afford to offer this on a wider scale.
  • Unused eyeglasses have been donated to the Mexican optometrist for distribution to needy patients.

It was an exhausting but extremely rewarding experience for all,  including the Mexican hosts. On an excursion to Juchipila town  after the clinic, several people recognized us and thanked us for  giving them the gift of sight.

There was time for relaxation and celebration. Although it was  an eleven day mission, two days were travel days, one was a  setup day, one day was an excursion to next year’s probable location, Zacatecas, and ended with a two day conference of Lions from four districts in Multiple District B. A few hours at the pool, too much tequila, wandering around the village of Azopol, lots of good food, and too much tequila, rounded out the trip.

- By Hank Hoekstra


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