Missions Accomplished

October 2017: Barahona, Dominican Republic

by Lion Portia Fagel

          This mission was a long-time dream of Lion Father Felino Reyes. Long before he was a Millennium Lion he was dreaming of the day when we go to Pedernales on the southwest Dominican Republic. Pedernales is on the border and has a crossing to the Haitian town of Anse-à-Pitres. His vision was for us to go to Pedernales, do vision screenings, distribute eyeglasses, do glucose testing, and pay for cataract surgeries of those who need them. Then the next day, cross to Anse-à-Pitres and do the same. In January when the plan was first discussed it seemed quite plausible. Then the crime rate started to rise in Pedernales and the project there was scrapped and moved to Barahona. Lion Felino has connections in the city and it was a suitable alternate.

          Ahead of the October 2 – 6 project, we shipped thousands of eyeglasses which we obtained from the NJ Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center, walkers, commodes, adult diapers, three wheelchairs and seven hospital beds which were given to us by Afya Foundation in Yonkers.

The wheelchairs being cleaned at Afya by Afya employee Jimmy Kuang.


          The team was formed quickly. Lion President Teresita “Etchie” Angos, Silvia Estebanez, Father Felino and I were to travel to the Dominican Republic on October 2 and Lion Sara Fernandez the day after. Unfortunately, a couple of days before departure Father Felino’s time off was rescinded due to work related scheduling conflicts. So on October 2, Lions Etchie, Silvia and I flew to Santo Domingo, were met at the airport by Padre Manuel and two members of the Armed Forces and were driven to Barahona, a four-hour drive. Along the way, we picked up Lion Eduardo Espinal, an optometrist and a member of the Club de Leones Santiago Norte. We also picked up the items that were shipped earlier and an auto-refractor keratometer that Dr. Berenice Nazaret will be using. Dr. Nazaret joined us in Barahona on October 3.

At Las Americas International Airport

          It was oppressively hot and humid. Thankfully, the minibus was air conditioned and the four-hour drive was quite enjoyable. We arrived at the seminary where we were to stay for the four days and found the compound pitch black save for the twinkling stars above. There was a power failure. That meant no air conditioning, no electric fans and no water. The electric company could or did not give a date when repairs were expected to be completed. So off we were hauled to Hotel Maria Montez in Barahona City. The hotel was small, clean, and inexpensive (I paid $30 for my four-night stay) and not too far from the pier and only a few minutes’ walk from the D’Lina Restaurant where we ate most of our breakfasts and our delicious and reasonably priced dinners.

          We worked in three different locations not too far from Barahona City – a church in Jaquemeyi, a school in Villa Algodon and a school and a health care center in Cienega. And in each one of them, every morning we arrived to find at least a hundred people waiting to have their eyes checked and to pick up either eyeglasses or frames.


          In January we paid for a Haitian woman to have a big lump on her face excised. When she learned that we were in Barahona she traveled from her home in Haiti to thank us personally.




Before and after surgery












          While the two optometrists checked the vision of the adults, we checked the children using the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener. Most of them passed, of course, but a handful needed to be referred. A few children were cross-eyed, many had astigmatism, some were myopic, some hyperopic.

At Jaquemeyi we screened 200, 239 in Villa Algodon and 326 school children in the morning and 46 adults at the health center. All of the adults were seen by the optometrists.

The two optometrists saw hundreds of patients in the three days. Most of them needed eyeglasses. We brought with us thousands of eyeglasses, mostly reading glasses, but several patients had prescriptions that we could not fill. For 18 of them, we needed to order the glasses from Dr. Nazaret.

38 adults and children will have corrective surgeries. Many are for cataract extractions but there is one for a cornea transplant, a couple of pterygium, and two children for treatment of strabismus. One of the girls who has strabismus also has a clubfoot and will need help with that.





Several children in Jaquemayi received toothpaste, toothbrush and dental floss sets. Only toothbrushes were given out to the children in Villa Algodon.


The three wheelchairs were donated to needy people in the community. One of the hospital beds is earmarked for a school and the rest for a local hospital.


Hundreds, if not thousands, of eyeglasses were not given to patients. Those were donated to Club de Leones Santiago Norte and to the Club de Leones Cabral. Past District Governor Edys Feliz and his wife Lion Leoncia belong to the Cabral Club. Both worked with us the three days. PDG Edys Feliz got trained on the Spot Vision Screener and he did a handful of children and Lion Leoncia worked in the eyeglass distribution room.



A handful of patients had their glucose tested. One received a nebulizer. Several got medicine measuring spoons. A boy got brand new shoes. We gave out t-shirts, too.


After we wrapped up at Cienega, we went to Los Patos River in the town of Paraiso about half-hour away from Cienega. The Los Patos River is the shortest river in the Dominican Republic and one of the shortest in the world. It is just 61 meters long, depending on the tide. It has crystalline clear water. It then goes out to sea to meet the Caribbean. The beach is clean, white and one feature is the presence of very polished stones.


We sat around by the river; ate delicious sea food dinners then headed back to Barahona and the trip back home the following day. We were all tired but we were all feeling good. And we all slept well that night.





   May 2017: Baguio, Philippines

by Lion Portia Fagel

          We asked them to find patients for cataract surgeries. They said they could not find any. They said they wanted to feed the officers of the barangay. We said no, we wanted to feed seniors and mothers and children. They suggested we distribute medicines. We said that will be impossible without prescriptions. We said we want to distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste to school children at Quezon Elementary School. They said to add soap and face towels. The discussions went back and forth and when the decision was made we, Yonkers Millennium Lions Club and they, Baguio Magnolia Lions Club had a project we could both be proud of.


          On May 22, we started the day with the blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony at our Centennial Legacy Project, a garden and a waiting shed with a Lions marker at the triangle at Upper General Luna Road and Brent Road in Baguio City. District Governor Charlie Loy Gonzales of District 301-C and Millennium Lions Bernadette Ebbay, Portia Fagel and Jun Mallari joined in the ribbon cutting ceremony as did officials of the barangay. (A barangay is the smallest local government unit in the Philippines, often a subdivision of a city or municipality).













          The festivities over, we started doing blood pressure and blood sugar testing.  A physician, Dr. Ritchie Pablo was there to talk to the patients and to prescribe medicines. We had purchased several drugs using a list from the Magnolia Lions of common drugs used in the Philippines. A wholesale pharmacy will sell drugs without prescription provided it will be used for a mission such as ours. We had to go back to the pharmacy at the end of the day because we did not have all the different kinds of drugs that she prescribed.


          Two optometrists, Lion Dr. Lisa Tamayo Locaben of the Baguio Chrysanthemum Lions Club and Dr. Garcia were there to do eye exams and give eyeglasses but they came late and by the time they got there the eyeglasses boxes were opened and several people grabbed eyeglasses and frames. Only a few people were actually checked but everyone was offered free eye exams. Dr. Locaben, however, said that only two people actually went to her office for complete eye exams. One who went to the office for his bifocals is Mr. Banta, shown below.

          Boxed lunch and snacks were available for everyone not just senior citizens and mothers and children. Then came a downpour and everything had to stop but a good number of people already had their blood pressures and glucoses checked, many had picked up their drugs and eyeglasses/ frames.

          Part 2 of the mission was the distribution of the dental kits to 250 kindergarten and 1st grade students at Quezon Elementary School. This was handled by Lion Bernadette Ebbay on June 29. And the following day she distributed dental care kits to 40 children at the Cabinet Hill- Teachers’ Camp Day Care Center.

          While distributing the kits, Lion Bernadette noticed that several of the children had rotten teeth. We decided to bring those children with consent slips to the dentist. Unfortunately, Dr. Racquel Umayam, the dentist who was willing to see all those children for no charge contracted dengue and passed away a couple of days before she was to see the first patients. A search is now on for a dentist who is willing to do the same.












Part 3 is the feeding of the entire student body of Quezon Elementary School, all 970 students on August 14. Then came a request from the school principal and the school dietitian for us to feed and monitor 30 undernourished and underweight children. We readily agreed and the feeding and monitoring will end on October 14. This feeding is being monitored by Lion Ophelia Pajel.


What's with the kid's dark glasses? We are awaiting a signed parental consent before we take him to see an ophthalmologist.


  The dental care kits and other items we needed for the mission were shipped ahead of time. We obtained several miscellaneous supplies for the mission from Afya Foundation’s Luggage for Life Program.



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