Tzu Chi’s Vision Care Brings Tijuana School Children and Elderly Clear Vision

National Headquarters  |  March 30, 2024
Tzu Chi volunteers are conducting eye screenings for poor school children.
Tzu Chi volunteers conducting vision checkups for underprivileged schoolchildren. Photo/Shuli Lo

Written by Shuli Lo
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrew Larracuente

When Tzu Chi USA National Headquarters volunteers traveled to Tijuana to provide free medical outreaches to the local community in December 2023, they realized the local residents’ urgent need for optometry services. Particularly since the children are at a critical stage in their studies, timely vision checkups and corrections are essential and should not be delayed. Therefore, Tzu Chi volunteers immediately took action to provide vision care services to underprivileged children in resource-poor schools.

With the careful coordination of the Tzu Chi Mexico team and the professional guidance of ophthalmologist Dr. Lina Lin, Tzu Chi National Headquarters gathered experienced optometry volunteers to conduct a free vision outreach from February 14th to February 17th, 2024, for the poor families in the Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School, and the local community.

The free vision outreach not only cared for the vision of local poor residents but also was a manifestation of Tzu Chi volunteers’ practical actions to convey love and hope, ensuring that every child could have a clear vision and pursue their dreams.

Vision Checkup for Hundreds of School Children

Before dawn on February 14th, all Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at the meeting place and took a sound-bound bus from Los Angeles. After a bumpy ride of more than three hours, they finally arrived safely at Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, Tijuana, Mexico, at 9:00 a.m.

Devanasi Tralmina Public Primary School is located in a ravine and is dilapidated.
Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, Tijuana, is located in a ravine and is extremely old and shabby. Photo/Shuli Lo

Nestled among the mountains is a shabby school with heartbreakingly simple facilities. The small playground that can only accommodate 100 people is crowded with more than 800 students, leaving very little room for them to move around. The outer walls of the classrooms are made of wooden boards, and the windows are also made of horizontal and vertical wooden strips nailed together and then covered with a piece of cloth. Inside the classrooms, desks and chairs are worn, and only six light bulbs decorate the ceiling, providing not enough lighting and making the classrooms dim even in the daytime. Seeing such a difficult learning environment, Tzu Chi volunteers were deeply concerned over the students’ vision.

Tzu Chi volunteers immediately started free clinic work as soon as they arrived at the school.
Tzu Chi volunteers started the free clinic as soon as they arrived at the school. Photo/Shuli Lo
Dr. Lin Mengjie is training local volunteers to use ophthalmic medical equipment.
Dr. Lina Lin trained local volunteers to use eye care equipment. Photo/Shuli Lo

Without stopping for a moment, Tzu Chi volunteers started the free clinic as soon as they arrived at the school. Also, Dr. Lina Lin not only generously provided medical equipment but also trained the Mexican local volunteers personally to ensure that they were proficient in conducting vision checkups. All of these efforts are aimed at expanding the scope of services in the future for more people to benefit and realize the lofty ideals of helping the world.

The volunteers were surprisingly fast learners. After half a day of hands-on training, they mastered the checkup techniques and completed vision checkups for over 100 students in just over five hours. The following day, Tzu Chi volunteers and local volunteers went to Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School to conduct vision checkups for the students and teachers there. Students who did not pass the checkup will go to the Tzu Chi campus on February 17 for further examinations, optometry, and glasses-fitting.

Under the careful guidance of Dr. Lin Mengjie, local volunteers in Mexico quickly mastered the necessary skills for eye screening.
Guided by Dr. Lina Lin, Mexican local volunteers quickly mastered the necessary skills for vision checkups. Photo/Shuli Lo

It is worth mentioning that during the whole process of the vision checkup, all the medical records were processed using electronic files, which was both convenient and fast, thanks to Dr. Lina Lin and Tzu Chi volunteers Kaicheng Yang and Meijuan Su. With their close cooperation and careful design, the efficiency of the free vision clinic was greatly improved!

Dr. Lin Mengjie screens the students' vision.
Dr. Lina Lin checked the students' vision. Photo/Shuli Lo
Volunteers use instruments to screen children's eyesight.
Volunteers checked the students' vision with equipment. Photo/Shuli Lo

Optometry and Glasses-fitting for the Children

Before the dawn of February 17, Dr. Lina Lin of TIMA and a group of dedicated Tzu Chi volunteers once again set off from Los Angeles on their trip to Tijuana to provide vision care and glasses-fitting to 56 students. Unfortunately, one of the invited ophthalmologists was unable to join them due to an unwell condition; fortunately, Dr. Lin brought along the experienced Dr. Dufu Weng. With the active participation of the local volunteers, they managed to complete optometry for 42 students that day.

María José, an 11-year old student at Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, had her eyes examined for the first time in her life. She was grateful to the Tzu Chi volunteers for their dedication, as she could finally see the blackboard. “I’m so thankful that I got an eye exam… I felt a bit nervous because it was my first time. Thanks to your support, I can see the blackboard clearly, and I will not struggle with my homework anymore,” she said with a big smile.

Doctors from the Human Medical Association took a group photo with local Tzu Chi volunteers.
TIMA doctors pose with local Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo/Shuli Lo

Mirna brought her 11-year-old twin sons for the vision checkup. Her sons were diagnosed with strabismus at birth and had to wait until they grew older before they could undergo surgery. The two rascally children broke their glasses. The family was so poor that they couldn’t afford extra money for glasses, so the children had to spend their days in a blur. Seeing the worried mom, Tzu Chi volunteers decided to make a new pair of glasses for them to bring clear vision to the children.

Graciela Sanchez, principal of Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School, accompanied the students and their parents to the campus. She was grateful for the hard work of TIMA doctors and volunteers. “When the children have the opportunity to get the glasses, they can have better vision and understand what the teachers are writing on the blackboard, and they can learn better. There are many children in the school who have vision problems, which may be caused by genetics or nutrition,” she said.

A while ago I thanked Tzu Chi for helping to repair a classroom with leaking problems and install good lighting. Now are the free eyeglasses, so that some of the children whose families have limited resources can get eyeglasses. Thank you, Tzu Chi for all you have done.

Free Vision Care Services for Impoverished Care Recipient Families

Tzu Chi volunteers come to provide eye diagnosis and treatment to bedridden people.
Tzu Chi volunteers visited a bedridden resident for optometry treatment. Photo/Shuli Lo

In addition to free optometry exams for the students of the two schools, Tzu Chi doctors and volunteers also made house visits to provide optometry services to patients from impoverished families in the area. Pedro Gualdivia’s wife was amputated due to diabetes. The husband climbs dozens of steps from his home down the slope and carries his wife to the house near the road every day, just to make her feel more comfortable. Dr. Lin examined the couple, which deeply touched him. He said that Tzu Chi had examined him before and found that he was on the verge of diabetes, and now they examined his vision, arranging him for eyeglasses in three weeks. A man not very good with words, he thanked over and over again.

Dr. Lin Mengjie is examining the patient's eyes.
Dr. Lina Lin examined a patient's eyes. Photo/Shuli Lo
Dr. Lin Mengjie is prescribing glasses for a patient to give him a clear vision.
Dr. Lina Lin provided optometry and glass fitting to bring clear vision to patients. Photo/Shuli Lo

From early morning to late afternoon, Dr. Lina Lin had always been patient and smiling with every student and patient who came to her. She is committed to providing the most compassionate and accurate medical care and expects to give each patient the best care possible.

The Master says, ‘One person may walk fast, but a group of people can go farther.’ Therefore, more doctors should be recruited to do this together. This way, we can help more people.

Dr. Lin hopes to return here regularly to continue to provide her selfless service to the residents and students there and to continue to bring health and hope to the community. She said, “Today we did a lot of vision care, but none of them were simple cases; they were all difficult. We’ll come back next time to do what hasn’t been completed. A lot of kids can’t see, and they don’t know they can’t see. Especially if they are in school, and if they really can’t see, it can really interfere with their studies. When they put on their glasses and can see, they are all happy. So I think it’s really meaningful to come to the remote villages to see the patients.”

Tzu Chi volunteers warmly embrace patients.
Tzu Chi volunteers hugged the patients. Photo/Shuli Lo

Most of the people in Mexico’s Tijuana region are poor, and many schoolchildren face the economic hardship of malnutrition. The poorly fed schoolchildren can’t even hope for a new pair of eyeglasses when they can’t read the blackboard. In addition, the remoteness of the area, which few people care about, makes it a forgotten corner of the world. A poverty-stricken place like this is precisely the place that Tzu Chi volunteers are working hard to cultivate. Hope is planted in the hands of Tzu Chi. Tzu Chi volunteers will always be on the road, bringing the light of hope to the poor.

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