Taking the lead on a humanitarian mission to improve vision in Haiti

     
  May 13, 2015      Strategic Giving

Louise Tanguay, Special Projects & Professional Relations for Essilor Canada, recently headed up a humanitarian mission to Debouchette in Haiti to bring vision care to the community. She talks about her experience here.

We were contacted by the Swiss company Firmenich which sources vetiver oil from Haiti and has established strong ties with two local companies who share a commitment to community programs in Debouchette. Firmenich explained that they had contributed to  building a 9-class school and that they were now looking for a partner to provide the children, and the community at large, with the best possible visual health. Since this fits perfectly with Essilor’s mission to improve lives by improving sight – and with my own personal commitment over the past twenty years to philanthropic programs supported by Essilor Canada  –  I was more than happy to take on the responsibility of heading up the mission.

I brought together 5 experienced volunteers, all experts in the fields of ophthalmology and optometry, and also benefited from the full support of the Essilor Canada management team, as well as my colleagues and a number of exceptional people and companies who provided not only encouragement, but also the necessary equipment.

Over a one-week period, we performed vision screening in a school of 550 children in Les Cayes, located in the South West region of Haiti. We then delivered eye examinations for all those in need and have had the pleasure of providing 85 children with prescription eyeglasses. We also referred 13 children with specific eye conditions for specialized follow-up.

“Thanks to the generosity of our suppliers, the children were amazed to discover they could choose from a selection of frames, while we were proud to know we were providing them with quality lenses that are safe and resistant.”

There were some challenges though –the first one was the short preparation time… just a few weeks! The transportation of the equipment, the frames and everything that is essential to the mission proved to be a very complex exercise. We also had to think about the safety and health of the participants: let’s not forget that drinking water is scarce in Haiti, and that electricity is often on the blink.

However, good moments were numerous, and none more moving than the contact with the children of Debouchette. The bond that developed between the team members, as well as the collaboration of everyone who has given freely, has made this experience a special moment in my life.

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