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Refugees making eyeglasses for fellow refugees

Refugees making eyeglasses for fellow refugees

My name is Greg Wiens and I am the Outreach Coordinator with Global Vison 2020. The following are the highlights of the trip that I took part with helping UNHCR Refugees start their own eye clinics in Zambia and southern Congo, November 8-24. During the same time, my son and his wife, Aaron and Amalia Wiens, did a similar trip to Turkey (November 15-25). All of the following stories are about refugees making eyeglasses for fellow refugees.

My highlight story for Zambia was for a young lady named Christine. Christine was 19 years old, and she had very poor vision, she could only see line 3 out of 11 on the eye chart. I trained her friend, Isabella, age 22 who was in nursing college, to test and distribute the eyeglasses. In less than ten minutes Christian was able to see line 10 out of 11 – well enough to pass the commercial driver eye exam in Canada!

But that is only half of the story. When Christine stayed behind to watch others get tested and get their glasses, it gave me the opportunity talk to her hear her story. I could tell from experience that this was a hurting young woman. I sat and talked with her about her value and self-worth. When somebody needs eyeglasses but has no access, they are often judged by people around them as being “stupid” and of low intelligence. I could tell that they young woman had been judged this way, and she believed it too! So, as I talked with her, I told her stories of other women around the world who had believed these lies too and how it had set them free to know that all they needed was a simple pair of glasses. She started to sob when I told her this. She had always thought that she was stupid and would never amount to anything. Even though she loved to read, and she got good grades in school, she still felt useless. She wept with relief that glasses were giving her an opportunity for a new lease on life. After she calmed down, she told me she hoped now that she could go to nursing college like Isabella. She now had a future she looked forward to!

My favorite story from Lubumbashi Congo came from our meetings with the government while we were getting our business license. The chief ophthalmologist for the province of Haut-Katanga (population of 5.5 million) came into the meeting saying that he needed new eyeglasses. The day before he had broken his glasses and he had to wait for as much as a month to get new glasses. In under ten minutes we had made him the glasses and he was seeing 20/20! Right then and
there, we got our permanent license to make and sell glasses in the province.

And in Turkey. Muwafak was a refugee we met from Iraq. He’s a computer engineer and he and his family have been in Turkey for nine years. The church that I am part of in Canada is sponsoring Muwafak and his family to come to Canada, but this will take between 2-4 years to process. So in the meantime my son and daughter-in-law traveled out to train and supply Muwafak. Here is Muwafak’s own story:

“I have not had new eyeglasses in over 9 years because it’s expensive for us to buy. But now I have good eyesight with these eyeglasses.
Every day I hear the same story, that people have not had new eyeglasses in almost 10 years. So many people are so excited to get new glasses. I have also had many patients know that they need glasses but have no access. This is life changing for us as refugees. Everyone is very happy because they know that they now can get a new pair of
eyeglasses from us.”

It has been my joy to help refugees help fellow refugees while making a living wage so that they can feed their family.

Greg Wiens