Rotary provides the precious gift of sight

A young man in Ethiopia, who struggled many years to read and write, and yearned for an education, had been regarded as stupid and forced out of school at Grade two, because he was blind. He put on eyeglasses for the first time and, as a new world opened up for him, said as a plea, now, “How can I learn?”

His life might have been so much for fulfilling if he had eyeglasses when he was a child.

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The second hand eyeglasses and professional help came to this man half way around the world thanks to the Third World Eye Care Society (TWECS), based in Burnaby, founded by Optometrist Dr. Marina Roma-March.

“While we, in the 50 Rotary clubs of District 5040 (www.rotary5040.org) were so disappointed that we had to cancel our late April annual conference in Vancouver because of pandemic restrictions,” says conference chair, Tom Smith, of the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen, “we continued with our pledge to raise 2,020 used eyeglasses for TWECS in time for the ‘2020 Vision Conference’. I am so amazed and grateful that, despite our setback, Rotary clubs, from Greater Vancouver up the coast to Prince Rupert, and eight Rotaract clubs, of young professionals and post-secondary students up to 30, rallied and far exceeded our goal with a final collection of 5,294 eyeglasses.”

Rotary Club of Ladner President Peter Roaf adds, “We are so pleased that we could be part of this project, with the Tsawwassen club and many others, because it could make a positive impact on the lives of over 5,000 children with improved vision which we tend to take for granted here at home.”

Thanks to Bandstra Transportation, which shipped collections from northern Rotary clubs to their Richmond terminal free of charge, the TWECS warehouse in Burnaby now has the entire collection. There the eyeglasses are sorted for reading or distance focus. Next, a local prison, with equipment loaned by TWECS, determines the magnification strength of each pair, labels and packages it for return to TWECS.

Dr. Roma-March, a Rotarian herself, will be taking the collected eyeglasses on her team’s next mission to a developing country, where, because of poverty or lack of availability of eye care services, individuals are unable to obtain eyeglasses and primary eye care. Over 25 years TWECS has led missions to countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Malawi, Nepal and the Philippines. 

“As our teams travel to the corners of the world we come face to face with thousands of children whose bright futures were brought to a standstill, stopped dead by poor vision, bound at home unable to read,” said Roma-March. “It is heartbreaking to meet so many children whose lives have been crippled with missed opportunities for education and employment because of the lack of eyeglasses. We are so grateful to our Rotary District 5040 clubs and their communities for this recent donation of used eyeglasses.”

Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.

Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18 and older to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service.

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