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As students from Vancouver, Elva and I had an incredible time participating in an eyeglasses trip. We first connected with Rayjon by a simple Google search and quickly connected with Bob, who was not only willing to accept our used eyeglasses collected by our organization 20/20 Mission, but was also receptive to letting us participate in the upcoming trip in November 2023. We met up in Guatemala City, where we worked with a host family to set up a five-day optometry clinic in a poor municipality called Mixco. Despite our hotel being located three kilometres away, it took us 30 minutes to get around the natural land barriers that isolated this community. When we arrived on our first day, over 100 patients lined up outside of the beaten-down gym where we would set up. There, the glasses that we collected over the past year with 20/20 Mission were prescribed and donated to those who needed it most. I was able to shadow an optometrist and work on our glasses database in Microsoft Access during the clinic. Some patients required immediate surgery, some had never attended school due to high myopia, and some needed glasses with lenses an inch thick. Yet, with each patient, we were able to find a match. I witnessed hundreds of patients light up and marvel in awe at the world they had never seen. When I first put on glasses at ten years old, I began to understand my full potential. The gift of sight can go a long way for an individual, for a family, for a whole generation of people working their hardest to be the best they can be. With my knack for videography and editing, I was able to document this rewarding journey using the photography/videography skills I had gained from my Duke of Edinburgh skills section. The biggest lesson I have learned is that there are still 1.1+ billion people worldwide who are without proper vision care. Yes, we helped 450+ patients, but universal eyecare will require more than just five-day clinics in select communities. The change must come from larger institutional bodies, that truly influence the policies that go behind the disparities. I know that my future career involves improving the world through the provision of healthcare services, and I can without a doubt say that the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s framework has challenged me and allowed me to realize what my true purpose is, with a perfect Gold Project to end it off.
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