"What mankind wants is not talent; it is purpose." - Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)
It turns out that standing 6-8 hours on concrete two days in a row makes my feet swell to painfully grotesque proportions. (Add this to the list of 'Laments of My Mum That I Swore I'd Never Utter'.) Thus, at Pat's insistence (big sisters tend to be right), I spent a fair bit of Sunday's drive laying on the back seat with my feet elevated above my heart. Staring out the side windows at blue sky, fluffy clouds, and power lines, I thought, "I could be most anywhere - I could be home in Montana, even - looking at this very view." (I know - deep, humanitarian mission thoughts.) And then the top of a palm tree flashed past; I smiled, thinking, "But I'm really in Sri Lanka (pinch me!) with two of my favourite people, participating in a very purposeful plan that is helping people."
If you skim through posts on this site from earlier trips, you'll see that Pat and Gary (aka Greater Works Unlimited, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation) work with local ministers to identify key areas of need that are within their reach to assist with, and the aid is not necessarily the same for each area. Home water filters, wells, and housing were important in Cambodia. Sri Lanka needed eye glasses. And so we are here to conduct free eye clinics that consist primarily of a basic eye examination, determination of ideal prescription strength (you know the drill: 'Tell me which is clearer: 1 or 2? Now 2 or 3?...'), and dispensing of appropriate eyeglasses. If more serious conditions are observed, the local pastor refers to an ophthalmologist, often assisting with the arrangements and expenses.
Before their first eye clinic outreach in Ghana in 2014, Greater Works connected with Dr. David Curtis's very practical training and equipping organization, Eye Doc In A Box, and learned his system. As you'll see in the photos with this post, increasingly high tech diagnostic equipment is not needed to identify basic corrective lens strength.
For many of us in Western cultures, eye maintenance is simple and routine. Annually, in less than an hour, we can get an exam and, if needed, reading or prescription glasses, through our choice of commercial outlets, big or small. But to so many people in Sri Lanka, they go without needed eyeglasses because they cannot afford: the day off work, the trip across or into a city for an exam, and the actual price of glasses. These are simply out of reach, economically and physically. And the lack of something as simple as drugstore reading glasses can have severe effects: a tailor cannot see to do his work that supports his family; students struggle with reading and may miss education opportunities; mothers worry about damaged teeth if they cannot see small pebbles when they sort and clean lentils.
Thus far, we've conducted four clinics. At each location, all ages of people were already waiting, despite the heat and dust and inconvenience to them. I was privileged to see how people's countenances changed - many arrived appearing worrisome and downcast, and left wearing open smiles. They came because they heard they could receive much-needed eyeglasses for free. But it seemed to me that, when they left, it was hope I saw lighting each face - hope born of seeing God's great love for them through unexpected consideration and kindness, prayer and counseling for any other needs, and, yes, eyeglasses.
I'll close this post with photos and basic stats from each location (go ahead - give the village pronunciations a try!). You'll see from the numbers that everyone examined did not receive eyeglasses; some of these had healthy eyes and 20/20 vision, others having more complicated conditions were referred to an opthamologist, and some needed special prescriptions that we will acquire and have delivered later by the local pastor. One photo explanation: an simple, respectful way to double-check a correct match of glasses for people who don't read is to ask them to attempt something they need glasses to do, which commonly is threading a needle.
We'll be in Moratuwa for the next couple days, then head east a bit to conduct additional clinics, so please stay tuned for more! -Cyndy
Friday morning: Paranthan: 33 people examined, 26 pair of glasses given away
Friday afternoon: Puthukudirupu: 34 people examined, 26 pair of glasses given away
Saturday morning: Akkarayan: 34 people examined, 25 pair of glasses given away
Saturday afternoon: Annaivilunthan: 58 people examined, 45 pair of glasses given away