Tzu Chi Tijuana Eye Clinic Gives Students Clear Sight and Brighter Futures

National Headquarters  |  December 31, 2022
Tzu Chi volunteers and parents help the children try on their new glasses
Tzu Chi volunteers and parents help the children try on their new glasses. Photo credit/Tzu Chi Tijuana

Written by Jingyi Li, Kunrong Xie, Meijuan Su
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Jiali Liu, Andrea Barkley

Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH/International) has supported the vision health of underserved communities worldwide since 1970. Two Tzu Chi doctor volunteers, Dr. Jeff Rutgard and Dr. Cook, first introduced Tzu Chi Tijuana to this vision health organization. Upon hearing about VOSH/International’s mission, Tzu Chi volunteers contacted Frank Mora, director of VOSH in Tijuana. Tzu Chi hoped a partnership with Director Mora could lead to eye examinations and glasses for La Escuela Primeria Tijuana Tzu-Chi students.

The Beginnings of Charitable Collaboration

Opticians perform free eye exams for students
Opticians perform free eye exams for students. Photo credit/Tzu Chi Tijuana
Local elementary school students in Tijuana receiving vision checks
Opticians use eye charts for the first round of vision checks for the local elementary school students in Tijuana. Photo credit/Tzu Chi Tijuana

Tzu Chi volunteer Meijuan Su contacted Director Mora to participate in the “Neighbors Day” event held on December 3, 2022, at the Tijuana campus. Volunteers took the director on a tour of the various services provided to residents and students. Mora was touched by Tzu Chi’s charitable work and agreed to initiate a collaboration between the organizations to offer eye examination services at the Tijuana campus. 

Director Mora is a retired Mexican-American architect from California and has always been enthusiastic about philanthropy. In 1987, he and charity physician groups traveled to various small cities in Mexico every month to provide free ophthalmology clinics for socioeconomically challenged residents. Over the past 36 years, his humanitarianism has grown. He has assisted many charitable organizations in holding free ophthalmology clinics.

Director Mora supported Tzu Chi’s request without hesitation. He began preparing for a free clinic on December 23. One week before the free glasses dispensing clinic, Dr. Marlet, a physician from the Tzu Chi campus, requested medical students provide 500 Tzu-Chi students with vision tests. Within three days, they selected 150 children for glasses.

Clear Vision for the First Time

Opticians offer various styles of frames for the students to choose from
Opticians offer various styles of frames for the students to choose from. The children gaze joyfully in the mirror. Photo credit/Tzu Chi Tijuana
Opticians use professional tools to select the correct lenses for students
Opticians use professional tools to select the correct lenses for students. Photo credit/Tzu Chi Tijuana

In the early morning of December 23, Director Mora and three staff members of VOSH arrived at the campus. He said, “All of the students selected by Dr. Marlet need glasses, which simplifies the workload of our opticians. The extra remaining time even allows parents of the students to have their eyesight checked.”

La Escuela Primaria Tijuana Tzu-Chi parents brought their children to get fitted early that morning. They were excited because this was their children’s first access to glasses. Because many families in this area face financial challenges, it is considered a luxury for primary school students to have glasses. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico, the average monthly income for households in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2020 was approximately 12,462 Mexican pesos (equivalent to about 620 US dollars). Often glasses are not affordable for these struggling families. 

The schoolchildren who received exams today needed glasses, but generally their families can't afford them. We are glad to help them get the care they need.

The students were thrilled to choose their new glasses. Director Mora and his partners worked to assist each child with care for a greater part of the day. In total, 50 schoolchildren and more than ten parents received vision examinations and eyeglasses at no cost to them.

VOSH Tijuana Director to Assist in Optometry Clinic Construction

Yesenia, a campus staff member, enthusiastically joined the Tzu Chi volunteers in assisting the children upon seeing a line outside the consultation room. She shared, “Free glasses and check-up is a wonderful year-end present. Now, these students will see more clearly. What a precious gift. I am so delighted to do this good deed with Tzu Chi!”

While participating in the day’s events, Director Mora learned that the Tzu Chi campus is located in the poorest area of ​​Tijuana. Many people are in need of assistance. Therefore, he hopes to assist Tzu Chi in completing the construction of an optometry clinic on the campus as soon as possible. In addition, he plans to visit the campus to help design the space and actively assist in coordinating with the municipal government in applying for project approval.

Tzu Chi looks forward to continuing cooperation with VOSH to assist the vulnerable and provide them with a bright and clear future.

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