In October 2016, Dr. Alicia Groce and optometry resident Dr. Kelly Varney visited Saint Vincent’s from the Southern College of Optometry (SCO). They were there as representatives of SVOSH, SCO’s student chapter of VOSH International (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity). VOSH International is an organization dedicated to providing free quality vision care services to people around the world.
This was Kelly’s first visit to Haiti, but Alicia and other SCO representatives visited Saint Vincent’s this past May. At that time, they performed visual assessments on 409 children and adults. They distributed 74 pairs of prescription eyeglasses to some of the patients they saw, but they also took measurements back with them to the US. When they returned in October, Alicia and Kelly delivered an additional 80 pairs of glasses which had been made specifically for the patients they met. They also provided 217 pairs of sunglasses during their two visits.
Kelly and Alicia were the only visitors this time, but they represented the support of countless individuals. Their combined efforts provided the frames, lenses, money and expertise needed to—in some cases—literally enable blind people to see. They shared a story of one young student who needed to be escorted by friends everywhere she went. After she got her glasses, though, her life completely changed. Suddenly she could be seen running up stairs and around the campus on her own. The people who knew her were astonished at the difference…it was truly a miracle for all of them.
Alicia also shared how rewarding it was to be a part of the process from beginning to end. As a doctor specializing in pediatric optometry, she performs many eye exams each year. She doesn’t often have the chance to put glasses on someone’s face for the first time, though, so being able to witness people’s lives being changed was an amazing experience for her. She said, “I could definitely see the impact of all the work we had done.”
SCO has made the commitment to return to Saint Vincent’s each year. Their intent is to offer glasses to everyone who needs them, even providing a backup pair whenever possible. They’ll continue to take a variety of the most common prescriptions with them, but they’ll also gladly make glasses for those who need them. This is a wonderful gift to our community, and we are grateful for their partnership with us.