Trip to Guatemala Gives AMIGOS Eye Care New Outlook Toward Mission Work
In August 2022, a team of nine optometry students and four optometrists from Pacific University's AMIGOS Eye Care and partner Enfoque Ixcán embarked on its first international eye care mission trip since the pandemic.
"We had no idea what to expect going in, but this trip exceeded our expectations and more. The beauty of Guatemala and the kindness of the people were more than enough for each of us to want to go back," said AMIGOS President Mary Avisado OD'24.
Over four days, the team was able to serve 755 individuals from the rural Ixcán region and provide free eye exams, prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and more.
Part of the mission of AMIGOS Eye Care is to serve underprivileged communities throughout the world and provide a clinical experience that brings these inequalities and disparities in health care to light.
"I will never forget the patient that came in with the biggest smile on his face and the most heart-lifting spirit. He was extremely grateful throughout the entirety of the exam, and even more grateful when we gave him his glasses," said Josh Fleegel OD '24.
Fleegel said the patient entered the clinic accompanied by his family members because he could barely see. He was an older man and at his age, the loss of vision could be easily thought to be due to cataracts, pterygium, or other eye disorders common in the area. Optometry students and optometrists found the best glasses prescription for him, but were surprised that his overall eye health was relatively normal considering his extremely poor vision at the start. When the man tried on his new glasses and looked at his family, he began crying because it was the first time he was able to see their faces.
"It was then that I realized that we can change a person's life in seconds through the simple services that we provide. We would not have traded this experience for anything in the world. This trip was a bittersweet reminder of the inequalities and disparities that continue to exist in health care and AMIGOS Eye Care is eager to help Enfoque Ixcán work towards a better future, said Fleegel."
On Sept. 17, 2022, AMIGOS Eye Care hosted the 29th Annual Eye Ball, their largest fundraiser of the year, to help support domestic and international service trips. They plan to return to Guatemala, Ecuador, Belize, and Senegal in the near future.