Vol State Students Help Hundreds with Vision Needs in Guatemala

Submitted on March 04, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Imagine lines stretching around the block and bus loads of folks coming in from all over Guatemala City. That was the challenge facing Volunteer State Community College ophthalmic students this February, as they traveled to Guatemala for the fourth year of an ongoing college service learning project. They worked with the Guatemalans in a special clinic set up to handle vision, dental and medical needs.

"It's a little overwhelming," said Ophthalmic Director Alisha Cornish. "You want to help everyone. They wait for hours and hours."

The Hendersonville Rotary has been staging the effort for 14 years. It was started by Hendersonville dentist Dr. Bill Taylor. This year the Vol State group gave eye exams for 739 people and dispensed between 400-500 prescription eyeglasses. That's nearly 200 people more than they were able to assist last year, in part due to more student help. This year six Vol State students made the trip with Cornish.

"We had one woman who was severely near-sighted," said Amy Webb of Gallatin. "She had never worn glasses before. We gave her a pair of glasses with a high prescription and she read right down the eye chart. She was thrilled. The look on her face said it all."

"It puts in perspective what it will be like when we are working out in the field," said Kayla Epps of Gallatin. "We see pictures of many eye diseases in the classroom and there we actually saw them in person. To see their faces when you could tell they could see better, was a blessed and rewarding experience."

The Hendersonville Rotary paid for two students to travel and the Vol State International Education program paid for the others. Cornish said she even recognized a young girl in the crowd, who has major eye problems requiring continual help.

"The minute I walked in, I knew it was the little girl I worked with last year," she said. "We found another pair of glasses for her, and her mother asked if they could come back to see us again next year."

For more information on the Hendersonville Rotary mission trip visit www.hendersonvillerotary.org/EventsProjects/Medical_Trips and for more information about the Ophthalmic Program at Vol State go to www.volstate.edu/OphthalmicTech


Pictured: Vol State student Lorinda Taylor of Scottsville, Kentucky checks a patient prescription using an autorefractor.

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