Optometry in Action: Tzu Chi Strengthens its Commitment to Communities in Need

Mid-Atlantic  |  December 10, 2023
Volunteers learn how to use a handheld auto refractometer. Photo/Jay Lee

Written by Ivy Wong
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane

Despite the affluence of American society in the 21st century, many families nationwide still suffer from a variety of economic hardships. The nature of the American healthcare system has made affording eye care significant issue for many of these families. School-age children from families in need are particularly at risk, as a lack of affordable glasses can hurt their academic careers and put them behind their classmates.  

Volunteers from the Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region have been dedicated to learning about the communities they serve and trying to gain insight into how best to serve those most in need of assistance. Recently, volunteers learned that many children from low-income families have eye problems or do not receive adequate treatments for their ophthalmological ailments. This prompted the chapter to strengthen its ophthalmic charity work in recent years.

The Mid-Atlantic Region introduced advanced ophthalmic equipment, including stereopsis, digital pupillary distance measuring instruments, eyeglass prescription measuring instruments, handheld auto refractometers, and automatic refractometers to provide more effective ophthalmic charity services for the community. The introduction of these devices aims to train more ophthalmic assistants to provide effective diagnosis and treatment for as many people as possible.

To achieve this goal, the Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region held the second optometrist assistant training course of the year on July 13, 2023, with the aim of training new volunteers who can take part in future free clinics for members of the community who are in desperate need of ophthalmological treatment.

Trainers teach volunteers about color blindness and color weakness examinations, carefully explaining the testing methods. Photo/Jay Lee
The Mid-Atlantic Region trained ophthalmic assistants to use many advanced ophthalmic devices. Photo/Jay Lee

This training course attracted over 30 Tzu Chi volunteers from New Jersey. The course was in-depth and detailed and included extra time for volunteers to practice operating various optometry equipment. Volunteer Yingzhen Chen shared, “If possible, we hope that students can practice more, at least 2 to 3 times. In my case, I had to practice 4 to 5 times before becoming proficient.”

First-time attendee volunteer Jialin Huang drove more than two hours from Atlantic City to participate in this rare training opportunity. She shared, “Through this training, I gained a lot of knowledge, and in the future, I will know exactly what to check.”

Voluntarios escuchan con atención durante la clase y toman notas en puntos clave para fortalecer su memoria. Foto/Jay Lee

The goal of this course is to enable volunteers to learn from each other and improve their skills so they can better serve children in need. Tzu Chi volunteer Chris Grimyser shared, “The advantage of mixed training is that in the future, during charity consultations, it won’t be a situation where one person can only use one machine.”

Voluntarios presentan al público el uso de una tabla de examen ocular. Foto/Jay Lee

We hope that everyone is familiar with each piece of equipment and becomes an expert, so we can establish a very strong team to provide more efficient services to the community.

The efforts of the Mid-Atlantic Region to provide families in need with eye care have had a large impact on local communities. Adults and children alike are better able to compete with their peers, and every family has been given the gift of sight that had been denied them before. The volunteers also benefited, learning valuable skills, and increasing Tzu Chi’s ability to serve more people in need. 

Voluntarios utilizan sus teléfonos para grabar el uso de máquinas desconocidas durante la capacitación. Foto/Jay Lee

The Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region will continue to work hard to ensure that more children receive necessary medical and vision care. Their mission is to serve society, spreading love and care to those in need. With the addition of these new recruits in ophthalmic charity, the future of vision care can be further ensured for local families.

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