Edmonton FYidoctors optometrist Dr. Annu Kaul is back from Lima, Peru, where she recently donated her personal time, finances, and skillset to helping the less fortunate receive eye care.
Dr. Kaul, Lead OD at Urban Optik in Edmonton, participated in a recent TWECS Canada eye care mission distributing refurbished eyeglasses and performing free eye exams to the less fortunate. The trip in July was her fourth journey with the charitable organization. Over the 10-day period, the volunteers saw 4,500 patients and gave away over 5,000 pairs of glasses.
“For me, it's always an amazing experience as I feel like I am able to use all those years of education and actually really help people,” said Dr. Kaul on her time there. “Most of the time, it's just a simple reading pair of glasses that changes these people’s lives. I truly enjoy these trips as I feel like we are really making a difference.”
The lineup in Peru to see Dr. Kaul and the TWECS Canada team.
TWECS, which was founded by BC optometrist Dr. Marian Roma-March, has been distributing donated eyeglasses in developing countries since 1995. The organization is now made up of 10- to 15-member teams that include eye surgeons, eye doctors, opticians, and lay volunteers. If an ophthalmologist is available and a proper operating theatre can be arranged, cataract surgeries are performed as well. For each mission, volunteers pay their own expenses.
Once on site, volunteers are divided into five stations: registration, vision assessment, triage, special testing, and dispensing.
“The last station is where doctor prescriptions are used to provide the closest match to glasses we can find for each patient’s actual prescription,” said Dr. Kaul of the approximate 10,000 pairs of glasses the team brought with them in all different types of prescriptions donated by patients back home. “This is the station where we got lots of smiles and hugs from the patients.”
“We saw a huge range of patients – lots of elderly and young children,” Dr. Kaul said. “Probably anywhere from six months old to 100 years old!”
Dr. Kaul admitted that the challenge on this trip was the type of prescriptions the eye doctors came across in patients.
“There were a lot of prescriptions with higher astigmatism, which made it very challenging to get the correct glasses as we were limited to lower astigmatism prescriptions,” she said.
Volunteers also found it difficult to help those patients who had an eye disease, as they were only able to refer them to their local doctors. Often, these patients cannot afford to see these specialists.
Between missions, gently used eyewear is donated by Canadian optical clinics and sent to a warehouse at the Burnaby-Lougheed Lions Club to be sorted and labelled.