Social impact was one of several key topics on the agenda at the first ever World Congress of Optometry held in Colombia in August. Milena Hernandez joined volunteers from the Fundacion Volver, La Salle University and local optometry students as they put discussion into action with a program of vision care for 50 marginalized individuals. 

“Being part of this event with the kids from Special Olympics and the homeless people from Medellín made a huge positive impact in my life. The experience that I had was exciting from beginning to the end.  At first I thought it would be difficult because I had some preconceptions about homeless people. But I realized that it all depends on your mindset and above all the respect that you give your patients as a professional. Each person, each gesture generates a smile and this helped me to establish empathy with them during the examinations.

Giving people visual correction generates huge social impact – we enable them to be a part of society.

This experience showed me that there are always ways we can try and be more inclusive with all kinds of patients. We treat them with professionalism to try to bring out the potential of their unique and special skills. The most rewarding for me, was receiving smiles and hugs in appreciation. This was evidence that I really did a good job and that with my knowledge I could help improve the quality of life and the vision of great human beings.

Giving people visual correction generates huge social impact – we enable them to be a part of society. We give them another opportunity to see and smile again.”

Milena Hernandez is the Director of Fundacion Volver in Colombia.  Created  in 2011 by Essilor partner Servioptica, the foundation aims to improve quality of life for vulnerable and low-income communities through eye care awareness, prevention and treatment and has to date helped over 36,000 people with pairs of glasses.