Article Date: 8/1/2012

CooperVision Launches Multifocal Daily Disposable
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Eye on the Prize

I created a branch of an organization that provides free eye care to the poor.

Sanjay Agarwal, O.D., Oakville, ONT.

I officially started ICare International Canada (ICIC), the registered Canadian charity of ICare International (www.icareinternational.org), in April 2002. It provides free eye care (e.g. exams, ocular medication and spectacle dispensing) to impoverished people of less fortunate countries.

Here's my story…

Beginnings

After my optometry school sophomore year, I decided to go to Mexico City for the summer and volunteer at the local optometry schools and ophthalmology hospitals to further my education. There, I observed immense poverty, sharpened my clinical skills and learned Spanish.

A few months later, I led my first humanitarian eyecare mission as a third-year optometry student through ICare USA. I took roughly 15 of my fellow students, and we set up a temporary clinic in Oaxaca, Mexico. We examined more than 1,500 grateful Mexicans through five days. This unique experience inspired me to start ICIC.

An ICIC mission trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico in 2009.

“Leave. Now.”

In 2006, ICIC planned a mission trip to Arica, Chile. Fundraisers for the trip had been performed, Spanish lessons taken, ocular medications packed/catalogued, a library of 10,000 pairs of glasses amassed and plane tickets booked. Two weeks before our departure, however, our hosts told us The Ministry of Health of Chile had decided not to endorse the trip after all.

After much deliberation, we — two O.D.s, three volunteers and 15 optometry students — decided to go anyhow. When we reached the Chile border, though, Chilean government officials confiscated our cargo of glasses and told us to leave.

Ultimately, we somehow managed to perform the mission in neighboring Tacna, Peru. Despite this somewhat positive outcome, the experience with the Chilean government caused me some apathy, and I seriously considered dissolving ICIC.

I began thinking about past mission trips, and I remembered the joy of watching a young mother with tears streaming down her face as she clearly saw her children for the first time. I also called to mind an 80-year-old woman who hugged me repeating “Dios le bendiga” (God Bless you). These joyous memories made me realize that the benefits of these missions far outweigh these “minor nuisances” of government bureaucracy. So, I decided ICIC would persevere.

Our reach

So far, ICIC has enabled the exams of more than 15,000 patients from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru and Chile. (We are looking to expand our efforts to other countries in Central and South America, so if any individuals/groups are able to assist with this expansion, please contact me.)

Our next mission is tentatively scheduled for Belem, Brazil. If you wish to participate/donate to ICIC, please visit our website at www.icareinternational.ca. OM

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JENNIFER.KIRBY@SPRINGER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: August 2012, page(s): 72