In 2002, optometrist Dr. Sammy Rose and engineer Holland Kendall designed and created an optical set-up which could analyse a person’s vision. The machine works with a computer programme to select the glasses prescription which best matches the person’s eyesight. This machine, worth $17,000, enabled the two men to start setting up optometry stations at medical clinics all over the world.
In 2005, the machine was taken on a trip to Honduras. The trip was part of Dr. Rose’s missionary work to help teach impoverished communities and give them the medical attention they desperately needed. It was one of many trips that Dr. Rose had embarked upon to enable his optical set-up to help benefit those with poor eyesight who otherwise would not get treated. It was however the first trip taken by Dr. Rose’s son, Samuel. Aged just 11 at the time, he was keen to get involved with his father’s work. This was also the trip that sparked Samuel’s interest in the work that would eventually lead to him bringing the first optometry station to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic.
Samuel Rose, now a biology major at The University of Mississippi, went to Honduras on nine occasions during high school; helping his father and learning about optometry and missionary work for himself. Samuel told us how important these trips were in shaping his future, explaining how “I developed a passion for mission work and helping people in poor areas.”
However, Samuel also told us how when he started at college, he could no longer devote so much of his time to this work. “I did not have time to go on mission trips and couldn’t afford to miss so much class”, Samuel explained. However, he was still keen to continue helping his father and using the optical machine to bring glasses to those in need. Therefore, when a friend came back from a MEDLIFE trip just before Samuel was about to begin his junior year at college, he was excited to hear about what MEDLIFE had to offer and how he could get involved.
Soon after starting his third year of college, Samuel signed up for his first MEDLIFE trip to Lima and he hasn’t looked back since. “Once I returned home I was quick to try to get involved [with MEDLIFE],” he said. “I was so happy to have found something to fill that absence I had had for so long.” Samuel was soon asked to become president for the MEDLIFE chapter at his school and in this capacity got to work planning to bring his father’s machine to set up an optical station at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic. On his first phone call with MEDLIFE Volunteer Coordinator Kristine Paiste, he explained how he wanted to be able to set up this station. MEDLIFE then started working to collaborate with Samuel and his chapter to make this happen.
“I’ve seen just how much glasses can change a person’s life and I knew that I was capable of making this happen for MEDLIFE. Our chapter is young,” he said. “It was started in 2013 and I wanted to make a difference as the new president to show that leaps could be made even by a young chapter.” Samuel set about contacting Holland Kendall, the engineer who had helped create the optical set-up. They ran through the details of the machine and how to work it so that Samuel would be able to operate it on his own in Lima. Samuel received a donation of 1000 pairs of glasses for the optometry station. He measured each pair manually and then entered the data into his father’s machine, corresponding each one with a number that matched the prescription. He then spent $400 flying the machine and glasses out to Peru last week to be set up and used on the MEDLIFE clinic.
Thanks to Samuel, we were able to have an optometry station present at 5 clinics last week alongside the usual dental, medical and OB stations. With the help of an optometrist, Samuel was able to treat 257 patients across the week who had come from all over Lima’s impoverished communities after hearing about this special clinic. It was amazing to see these people being given their sight back. There was a huge amount of gratitude from all who received glasses for MEDLIFE and Samuel’s work. “In this community people don’t have glasses because they cost and we can’t pay but now thanks to you they are free. You have given us all back our sight” one man told us after being prescribed a pair of glasses by Samuel. Another family were all given glasses and explained how much it would help them; “we are so happy and grateful to you all, this will make such a difference in our lives”.
When Samuel was explaining his work, he referenced back to the Gandhi quote that appears on the back of MEDLIFE t-shirts: “be the change you wish to see in the world”. He told us how important this quote was to him and explained how it had been part of his motivation to get the optometry station to a MEDLIFE clinic. “I know I can’t change the whole world but I can change the way people see it. Now 257 people see it differently. I did this because I was blessed with the opportunity to make someone’s life better, I did this because I felt like God wanted me to be that change Gandhi talked about.” Samuel also explained to us that these new glasses would not just affect these people’s sight, but that he hoped it would be able to continue to make an impact in their lives long term. Children will be able to get a better education as they will not be hindered by being unable to see what they are supposed to be reading or learning. Adults will be able to do their jobs better without having to worry that their sight is letting them down. Even MEDLIFE staff benefited from the clinic with some of our medical professionals visiting the station at the end of the day and receiving glasses they have been in need of for a long time.
Without Samuel’s support and initiative, MEDLIFE would never have been able to get this station off the ground. It was amazing to be able to bring optometry to our clinics and we hope it is something we will be able to expand upon in the future. Samuel finished by telling us that he hopes for the same thing;“I hope it improves the quality of life that these wonderful people have because it’s what they deserve. I’m honored that I was able to help make this happen with MEDLIFE and I hope I can figure out a way to provide this station on trips after I am gone.” Seeing this kind of support from chapter members is hugely important for MEDLIFE and we hope that this collaboration and many others will continue into the future as MEDLIFE continues to expand.