Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region Volunteers Bring Hope and Eye Care to Children in Need

Mid-Atlantic  |  June 30, 2023
Volunteers demonstrate the use of an autorefractor.
Volunteers demonstrate the use of an autorefractor. Photo/Jason Chen

Written by Ivy Wong
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a pronounced effect on the American economy, with families across the nation feeling the impacts of inflation, layoffs, business closures and more, exacerbating financial stressors that were already a weighty concern for many. 

Learning the needs of children from low-income families within the communities they serve, Tzu Chi USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region developed a plan for support. Children and families affected by these multi-layered factors, and encounter barriers to healthcare affordability, often have to delay checkups for vision problems. 

Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic Region has incorporated ophthalmology into the scope of its fee medical services for those in need to make it easier for these children to get the eye care and eyeglasses they need for their schooling and lives.

In 2023, Tzu Chi has been working hard to integrate charity and medical care, and the long-planned eye care initiative in New Jersey is in full swing. New eye care equipment has been purchased and delivered to the Mid-Atlantic Region office to equip the initiative with the machines and tools they need to best serve the community. Volunteer Steven Voon shared, “Tzu Chi’s eye care is set to fully utilize the medical resources available to serve school children in the community and to give the children the best eye care services possible.”

On Saturday, May 27, Steven Voon, Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Mobile Clinic, and his wife, Olivia Chung, flew all the way from Northern California on the West Coast of the U.S. to the East Coast for an ophthalmology volunteer training workshop and a hands-on training session for medical volunteers interested in ophthalmology.

On the day of the training, three generations of volunteers learned about complicated medical equipment, which is a test of both physical and mental strength. As volunteers, not only do they aspire to serve others, but more importantly, they have the courage to take on the responsibility of trying to keep up with technological advances in healthcare. Following Master Cheng Yen’s teaching of “Learning by doing, awareness by learning,” the trainees braved the difficulties of learning new skills.

Volunteer Olivia Chung demonstrated the use of handheld optometers and shared her 9 years of experience expanding and running the eye care free clinic at the Fresno Service Center. She also encouraged Mid-Atlantic Region volunteers to practice working with the younger schoolchildren first, to minimize the impact of vision problems on the children’s early years of schooling.

Petrina Chen, a cardiac ultrasound technician at the local Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, participated in Tzu Chi activities for the first time. She has always hoped to have the opportunity to serve people outside of work. She shared, “I have always thought that as long as each person gives just a little bit of their time and effort, it will have a great impact on the lives of families and children who need help.”

Everyone studies hard, and learns a lot from the training.
Everyone studies hard, and learns a lot from the training. Photo/Jason Chen
A volunteer shares their experience in expanding an eye care free clinic.
A volunteer shares their experience in expanding an eye care free clinic. Photo/Jason Chen

Under the instructor’s careful watch and encouragement, the trainees were finally able to read the diagnostic reports printed out by the optometrists, boosting their morale, and doubling their confidence.

Tzu Chi Academy teacher Huai Zi Zou shared, “I am very happy to learn a lot of ophthalmology expertise today. In addition to learning to read ophthalmologists’ diagnostic and optometric reports, I can also use what I have learned to help the community in the future.”

We witnessed the emergence of eye care in the Mid-Atlantic Region from scratch, and we are finally able to reach out to the community, starting from the early grades of the school-age group, and expanding step by step to serve more people.

With the vision of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s medical mission ahead of us, Tzu Chi volunteers will make good use of the resources to spread love to those in need, in the hopes that all children can learn with joy, and through their joy, love will continue to expand and spread widely around the world.

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