PECAA Member Spotlight: Giving Back to Those in Need
Featuring PECAA Member, Dr. Todd Pfeil, from Eyecare Specialties in Lincoln, NE
In 2008, my wife and I joined in on a visionary mission trip to Haiti with our church, Sheridan Lutheran, in Lincoln, Nebraska and the Haitian Timoun (creole for child) Foundation (www.htflive.org). As we traveled with HTF, we visited the various partnerships that they have developed ranging from Grace’s Children Hospital, Haitian Education Leadership Program, St. Joseph family and Tet Kole Foundation, to name a few. As we visited these different organizations our goal was to see where we could plug in, use our gifts and make an impact on ours lives.
On this initial trip, I toted along a hand-held auto refractor, a simple diagnostic kit and about 200 sets of used eyeglasses that had been neutralized and labeled. I held a clinic for a half day during this trip and was able to help many people achieve better vision. Most of the individuals that I examined were middle school aged students and their immediate family members.
As we were conducting the clinic on that warm Haitian afternoon, I saw a common reoccurance. The individuals would place on the pair of glasses that were selected for them, look around at their surroundings with smiles as they experienced their “new vision”. We also had with us a mirror in which they could see themselves with their new eyewear on. This is the part that really cemented in a lesson for me. As they would glance in the mirror with the “experienced” eyewear, it would often be slipped off and placed in their pocket as they kindly smiled at us as a “thank you” and walked away. This really made an impression on me as I realized that all people deserve to be offered our best and feel good about themselves.
The lesson that I learned that day has completely revolutionized the way and methods that we have since carried out our optometry care mission trips to Haiti since. Upon returning to the states, I contacted one of my frame vendors and they donated about 200 brand new frames for the cause and our local lab donated hundreds of lens blanks. We started to assemble an inventory of spherical and low cylinder spectacles to be used for our mission trips.
About a year after this process started, our practice hired Austin Mackrill to serve as our practice COO. He and I discussed the mission work and how to do it better and make a larger impact. Austin and a local attorney, Troy Kirk, and their wives founded SharedVision International (www.sharingvision.us) as a non-profit 501(3c).
Shared Vision International has partnered with August Enterprises, many optometric practices and opticals to obtain new eyewear and lenses to deliver care that exemplifies the Shared Vision International goals of providing high quality of care with dignity and durable eyewear.
Shared Vision International has also partnered with the People’s City Mission and Clinic With a Heart in Lincoln to provide lanes of equipment to deliver care to those in need in our own community. In addition to the Haiti trips, Shared Vision International has provided eyewear for two trips to Honduras under the direction of Dr. Scott Reins.
Since my first trip in 2008, I have had the pleasure to help lead five optometric mission trips to Haiti. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to serve the people of Haiti with an emphasis on students and the surrounding partnerships in the area of Jacmel. The Haitians that we have served are extremely grateful for the services that we offer and I am grateful for the lessons of life that they share and show me as we walk down this road together. On our trip this last year one of our contact lens technicians, Thomas Nguyen, traveled with us and captured the photos in this article as well as put together a video of our trip which can be viewed at: http://vimeo.com/79456713