The Future in Focus: Brigada de Esperanza Joins Tzu Chi NY for Vision Mobile Training

Northeast  |  December 28, 2020
Volunteers describe the process for eye exams. Photo by Hector Muniente.

Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto 

At a Vision Mobile training class, volunteers assembled in groups of three to simulate the process of checking for colorblindness — an event that marks the first Spanish-speaking ophthalmology volunteer training course since the launch of Tzu Chi New York’s Vision Mobile program in 2019. Over the next three weekends on October 18th, October 25th, and November 1st, more than 20 Spanish-speaking volunteers came to Tzu Chi’s Northeast regional campus for training.

Spanish-speaking volunteers begin training with Tzu Chi for three consecutive weekends starting on October 18th, 2020. Photo by Nancy Wei.

Better Access to Training Courses

The optometrist, Dr. James Chung, designed this course to be smooth and uncomplicated for brand new volunteers. A Spanish volunteer translator at his side also ensured that everyone could be readily included and easily follow along with the training. James said the Vision Mobile services have been idle since March due to the pandemic. The goal of this training course, however, is to train more volunteers of different ethnicities so that when volunteers travel to diverse communities, we can effectively provide services to more people in need.

The three-hour course is divided into three parts. First, new volunteers were introduced to their duties and professional ophthalmology information. Then, they visited the Vision Mobile Clinic to learn about the process of matching and making prescription eyeglasses. The last hour allowed everyone to operate the autorefractor and related equipment.

Charito Cisneros is the founder of The New York Hispanic Cosmetology and Beauty Chamber of Commerce. She was invited to join the training by her friend, Carmen Velasquez, a New York State Supreme Court Justice.

Optometrist James Chung (middle, wearing glasses) explains how to conduct a vision exam. Photo by Nancy Wei.
Dr. James Chung (right) is in charge of this training course. Photo by Nancy Wei.

We really enjoy the class, and it’s very clear how the teacher shows us; it’s very specific for people who are starting out.

A Loving Community

This group of new volunteers also happen to be members of the community recruited by Brigada de Esperanza New York. During the pandemic, Judge Carmen Velasquez, who is the main board member for Brigada de Esperanza, had reached out to Tzu Chi to work together for multiple food distributions. The cycle of love continues, and the two organizations sought further collaboration. Judge Carmen said that every time she saw Tzu Chi volunteers, whether at a food distribution or at the ophthalmology training courses, she felt moved by their dedication.

Judge Carmen encourages Spanish-speaking volunteers to participate in the training program. Photo by Nancy Wei.
Volunteers focus on taking careful notes and videos to refer back to later. Photo by Hector Muniente.

Judge Carmen was also happy to be able to participate in the training course. Even with her busy schedule as a New York Supreme Court Justice, she said that it was refreshing to take on the role of a student and see everyone studying hard.

Dedicated Support Through Communication

The planning and arrangement for the training course was done by a Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) volunteer named Cathy Chen. At this first-time training course, volunteers accompanied trainees with “Beautiful Sunday” drifting through the background, inspiring an enthusiastic learning environment.

Gratitude is the world's most beautiful language and the most genuine way for people to interact.

Tzu Chi volunteers sing a song before the training course begins. Photo by Hector Muniente.
Volunteers learn how to operate the equipment. Photo by Hector Muniente.

I hope to bring in these community bodhisattvas, and with their wisdom and kindness, they can return to Spanish-speaking communities to hold food distribution activities, free Mobile Vision Clinics, and so on.

After the three training sessions were over, Lien Yang spoke with Judge Carmen about how the Vision Mobile services are expected to reopen in November. And now, Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile services can be brought directly to the local Hispanic communities to serve children from underserved families for free.

The Vision Mobile Clinic at Tzu Chi’s Long Island branch. Photo by Hector Muniente.
Dr. Yang (left), the coordinator for Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile services, describes the equipment and procedures to volunteer Charito (first right) and Judge Carmen Velasquez (middle). Photo by Hector Muniente.

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