BRINGING BETTER VISION TO PERU

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Quest Vision Care Specialty Lab is making lenses for Peruvians in need.

Sight is a Right, a 501 (c) 3 organization, recently provided vision care, lenses and frames to those in need in the town of Zorritos, Peru, with the help of Largo, FL-based Quest Vision Care Specialty Lab.

Michael Walach, president and owner of Quest, along with his son Louis who heads the lab’s 3D Rx lens printing operations, joined the organization on a mission trip March 5 to 8, where 27 volunteers provided free vision, blood pressure and glucose screenings. While there, the group disseminated 2,000 pairs of sunglasses, 1,700 pairs of reading glasses and fit 576 Peruvians with frames for prescription glasses. Quest is making 404 of those lenses with Penobscot Eye Care in Brewer, ME, and Oxford Opticians in Oxford, OH, doing the remainder. The group plans to return to Zorritos in August to deliver them to patients.

Louis and Michael Walach

Walach, who has participated on mission trips to Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica, said the trip to Peru was an adventure because they “weren’t quite sure what to expect. I am very fortunate that life gave me plenty,” he said. “I’m just passing that along and it feels good. No one ever became poor by giving.”

Steven Stern, executive director and president of Seattle-based Sight is a Right, said the group screened 1,992 people during the four days. Zorritos, a two-hour flight from Lima, is located in northern Peru 3.6 degrees south of the Equator on the Pacific Ocean, and Stern said many people don’t wear sunglasses or hats.

I am very fortunate that life gave me plenty. I’m just passing that along and it feels good. No one ever became poor by giving.” – Michael Walach

“The people down there think sunglasses are only for fashion,” he explained. “They don’t realize they are a necessity. This community never had a group like us come. It’s a town that really doesn’t get many services.”

Signs of excessive sun exposure were evident in those evaluated over the age of 40, 75% of whom had pterygium that caused irritation, vision obstruction or astigmatic vision problems. Cataracts are “epidemic,” Stern said, adding they were seen even in children. The group plans to provide cataract surgery at a later date and would like to receive a donated Phaco system to train local ophthalmologists.

The team of volunteers met in Lima and were transported to Zorritos on a Peruvian Navy plane (donated by the Peruvian government) and stayed at the Palo Santo resort, where rooms were donated by owner Lutie Fox, who also gave the group exclusive access to the property during their stay.

Stern said supplies had to be hand carried into Peru, and because of this, they could only bring 800 pairs of prescription frames. Other sponsors of this mission included VOSH International, Restoring Vision, Northwest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center, National Vision and Nickerson & O’Day, Inc.

“The volunteers who do this are very special. They take time off, and the volunteers become a family,” Stern said. “Michael has such a big heart and it was so nice he brought his son down with him.”

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