Dana and I were finally on our flights to Guyana to execute two eye care clinics. Just three days prior we received approval from the Guyanese Ministry of Public Health to do so. We didn't skip a beat. I had connected with Dr. Shannon Da Silva, an optometrist in Georgetown, Guyana who immediately volunteered herself and her team to help at the clinics. Fortunately, we had the right partnership and plan in place to execute the clinics so bringing them to fruition within a few days was possible.
At 11pm on Friday, March 24th we arrived in Guyana and at 5:30am the next morning we were meeting Dr. Shannon Da Silva and her team, Keion, Dave and Shabana, for the first time. The opportunity to host the eye care clinics came about through my involvement with the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative, a program sponsored by the US Department of State. In October 2016, I hosted Dason Anthony, a young Guyanese entrepreneur and YLAI fellow, for a month during which he worked alongside me and we learned about each other's businesses. Once the exchange concluded, we were given the opportunity to do a reverse exchange where I could travel to Guyana and execute a project with Dason. Together, we decided our project would be hosting an eye care clinic. Because the project was largely funded by the YLAI program, SOLO was able to supply 300 pairs of reading glasses and 50 pairs of sunglasses and subsidize a second eye care clinic during the trip.
At 6:30am on March 25th, we were chartering a small flight to Mabaruma, a remote region in Guyana, to host our first eye care clinic. Upon arriving at 7:30am, we found over 200 people waiting. Some individuals traveled all night to come to the clinic. We quickly got to work. Dana, Dason and I administered preliminary vision tests to determine which patients were near and/or far sighted. By evening time, our team had seen nearly all of the patients. We were able to distribute eyeglasses and sunglasses to people in need. We met so many individuals and learned about their hardships that resulted from their poor vision. Many wanted to be able to sew or read again. Others simply wanted to make sure their children's eyes were healthy. It was a privilege to connect with and help so many people in need.
On Sunday, we returned to Georgetown and began preparing for our second eye care clinic that would take place the following day on Leguan Island. The next morning we were boarding a small boat with all of our supplies to head to Leguan. The boat ride was exciting... a bit less terrifying than the 12 person plane that we flew on the day before. Upon arriving at the hospital, we walked inside to find a packed room of people waiting to have their eyes checked. The hospital was allowing us to use their facilities to host the eye care clinic. Before we arrived, they used a number system to help organize the patients. The person who received number 1 had arrived at 4am that morning to wait in line. He had already been waiting 4 hours by the time we arrived.
We immediately got to work. Everything flowed beautifully. Not only were we able to examine all of the individuals waiting but we also stayed to see the hospital staff. Many of them had never had their vision checked.
In total, over 250 individuals came through the two eye care clinics. We were able to provide over half of them with eyeglasses and 50 with sunglasses. Because we were able to restore vision for most of the people who came to the clinics, they are now better able to lead fuller, more productive lives. For that, we are most grateful.
A special thank you to Dr. Shannon Da Silva, Keion and Dave who worked tirelessly to help bring these clinics to fruition and service so many individuals in need, to Shabana Shaw who represented the Ministry of Public Health and documented our efforts. Because of her work, our eye care clinics were covered by several Guyanese news outlets. Another thank you to Dason who so generously hosted me and Dana during our stay and volunteered his time to help at the clinics as well. And last but not least, a thank you to the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative, the US Department of State and Meridian International. Without your support, none of this would be possible.
After weeks of organizing and communicating with the Flying Samaritans and Restoring Vision, our non-profit partner, our team had arranged to support an eye care clinic in San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico. On Friday, February 10th we packed up the van and headed 5 hours south to help at the monthly Flying Samaritans clinic.
(Photo Credit: Ravean Aaron)
We spent all day Saturday serving the local community. The Flying Samaritans typically host a health and dental clinic in conjunction with their eye care clinic. Due to the bad weather, the dental and health clinics were cancelled. Despite the conditions, dozens and dozens of women, men and children showed up in hopes of receiving eye care.
(Photo Credit: Gale Straub)
Dana and I, along with Flying Samaritans volunteers' Joe, Margie and Rick, and Restoring Vision volunteer Grecia examined individuals, administered vision exams and fitted those in need with prescription eyeglasses. We asked several of them how they felt to receive a pair of eyeglasses and see clearly.
One young girl who was about 13 years old said she was most excited to see the board in her classroom. She told us that she felt more confident and was excited to go to school now that she can see well.
A man in his late 60's walked into the clinic. After undergoing an eye exam, he was prescribed eyeglasses with -4.00 strength for distance. Having poor vision made it difficult for him to work. He told us that he was strong and wanted to find work. He was optimistic that he would now be able to.
One woman in her 50's told us that she had never learned to read or write. She had recently decided to enroll in adult classes so she could become literate. Upon beginning the classes, she noticed that she could not see the letters on the page to learn. She was fitted with a pair of +3.00 reading glasses and was ecstatic to see each individual letter on a page. She told us that she was most looking forward to learning how to write her name.
(Photo Credit: Ravean Aaron)
The patients' stories were incredibly moving and served as a powerful reminder of why SOLO Eyewear exists. In addition to being inspired by these individuals, we were also moved by the compassion and dedication of the Flying Samaritans team. Each month they travel to San Quintin from San Diego to help the local community by providing free health care, including vision and dental. They are doing incredible work and we felt privileged to work alongside them. Through our partnership with Restoring Vision, we were able to provide 150 pairs of eyeglasses to this specific clinic with over 2,000 more eyeglasses allocated to additional Flying Samaritans clinics.
(Photo Credit: Ravean Aaron)
Thank YOU for helping us put so many smiles on people's faces!
At SOLO, we believe in taking care of people and our planet and we know that is important to you as well. In celebration of Giving Tuesday, we're kicking off a 10 Days of Giving Campaign where participants can complete acts of kindness and receive SOLO gear.
Each participant who completes 5 of the 10 acts listed below by December 9th and follows the campaign rules is eligible to receive a FREE SOLO Eyewear Tote Bag with a mystery pair of SOLOs inside.
10 Days of Giving Campaign
1. Share a picture or video of each completed act of kindness on Instagram and include #soloeyewear #10DaysofGiving
2. Each participant who completes 5 acts of kindness and follows Rule 1 is eligible to receive a SOLO Eyewear Tote Bag and mystery pair of SOLOs.
3. If a participant is able to complete all 10 out of 10, then he/she will receive our SOLO tote bag stuffed with 2 SOLOs of your choice, 2 Guatemalan sunglass bags, 2 sunglass cords, and 2 micro-fiber sunglass bags.
Simply put, we at SOLO believe in creating a better world together and that effort begins with each of us, as individuals. So when you see us mention 'SOLOist', know that you are one and that you are an important part of our community.
So, cheers to being a SOLOist, to living limitlessly and giving abundantly!
Meet Kathy Wong, founder and CEO of cause-based company, Moeloco. Moeloco is a flip flop retailer which provides one pair of canvas shoes to children in India per sale of their flip flops. To date, Kathy and Moeloco have donated 4,335 pairs of shoes to children in need. Their vibrant flip flops are painted with bright hues and eye-catching colors to denote an uplifting vibe. The most distinguishing feature perhaps, is the etching of positive messages in the soles, which leave inspiring phrases in impressionable surfaces (usually sand). With the help of their flip flops, Moeloco is changing the world one pair of shoes at a time.
What exactly is Moeloco?
Moeloco is a purposeful business. Our social enterprise operates on a one-for-one model. We create rubber flip flops that leave positive messages in the sand like "I am Peace," "Live Love," "Be Happy," and for every pair sold we donate a pair of canvas shoes to a child in poverty so that attending school is much less physically daunting.
What inspired you to create Moeloco—and why flip flops?
I had an epiphany in February 2014 that I needed to make a difference in the world. When I learned that there are over 300 hundred million children in the world without shoes and that many could not attend school because of this--or even that some were dying--I totally knew I had to help.
Why flip flops? It is actually quite the paradox when compared to the message we're sending through our goal to provide shoes for children with none. Flip flops are usually associated with happy times, the beach, or holidays, yet in countries like India where some children will never own a pair of shoes, they are a luxury item. There are millions of children I want to help and flip flops are the fastest growing footwear product in the world--it's a huge market. Providing shoes to a million children in India is absolutely realistic.
What’s one of the most exciting, memorable experiences you’ve had while at Moeloco?
Giving one of the children--whose name cannot be mentioned for purposes of privacy and safety--a pair of our shoes whilst visiting our charity partner in India was incredible. It was beautiful seeing his face light up when he received them. We later learned how much he truly treasures them; he was putting them under his pillow!
I'll never forget going to India and meeting the resilient children we support and the wholesome joy they have in their community despite having endured the most unspeakable tragedies.
What’s your favorite live and give story? In other words, what’s your favorite memory regarding an instance in which you gave back?
There was another boy--whose name also cannot be provided--we provided a pair of shoes to on our shoe giving trip. At 11 years old, he had been kidnapped at a train station and was dragged into the life of the underground. He has since been rescued and is now in full protection. When we presented him the shoes he cried and later came back over to show us his drawings. He is very talented.
What has been the most challenging aspect of building Moeloco?
Scaling the business on limited resources and little knowledge in logistics, distribution channels, or manufacturing was perhaps the most difficult. I'm pushing my limits continuously.
If you had one piece of advice to give to the readers—pertaining to anything—what would that be?
Don’t ever think you can't make a difference. We all have unique gifts to bring into the world, so use them. Anything is possible if you really know your "why" and engage communities in your efforts.
SO·LO·ist /ˈsōləwəst/ n : A person who embodies the Live and Give mission, who lives life to the fullest and gives back, who desires to make our world a better place and live a meaningful, adventurous life.
Hailing from Victoria, BC, Canada, adventurous educator, Dan Duerden, holds the SOLOist Spotlight for October. When Dan isn't instructing his students in Physics, Physical Education, Outdoor Education or Social Studies, he finds time to immerse himself in beautiful natural settings while documenting it through thought-provoking photography. Be sure to check out Dan's stunning work on his Instagram!
What's your favorite adventure as of recent?
Sometimes I get this urge to be outside: hiking, walking, climbing, somewhere new, somewhere old--the combination of these doesn’t seem to matter. My urge on this occasion was to camp outside and breathe some fresh air--simple formula and ingredients! I only had a day or so free due to my other passion: being with family and friends! So I ran outside and up island to Tofino and Ucluelet for a whirlwind 36 hours. Not a lot of sleep for me--a lot of driving and some beautiful coastal camping, hiking and starry nights. I was refreshed and recharged to pursue a balance of my other passions for a bit again!
As someone who balances many obligations and hobbies, what advice do you have for the readers?
Oftentimes it can feel tough to balance my urge to explore with my other passions (family and friends, educating, learning new skills and ideas, helping others). Whatever those important aspects of life happen to be for each of us, the challenge is the same: how should I spend the time I am alive on Earth? Here’s the amazing thing for me: when I spend time pursuing one passion even though I may be missing out on another, I’m still experiencing one, so can I really go wrong? We may not share the same passions, but whatever yours are, I encourage you to pursue them! SOLO is doing just that with a mission to provide eye care for those that can’t afford it through their business model!
If you could visit one place right now, where would it be?
I loved the Middle East. If I had to choose a specific country, I'd say Palestine or Jordan.
What's one random fact about you?
I can speak Arabic conversationally!
If you are interested in being featured as a SOLOist on our website, please contact us at email@example.com.
World Sight Day is Thursday, October 13th. The purpose of World Sight Day is to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. 80% of the world's blindness is preventable!
To help raise awareness, we reached out and recruited three SOLOists to participate in a friendly competition. The prompt for the competition was: Share one photo that reflects how grateful you are for your sight.
View the 3 photos and Vote for your favorite one!
Entry #1: Meghan Young (@missmeghanyoung)
"I'm eternally grateful for the gift of sight. Without it, I would never be able to experience the way these clouds teased the distant peaks while the larch trees glowed orange before them. Some moments are simply too powerful for words or even photos to capture and I revel in the beauty my eyes have allowed me to take in."
Entry #2: Dan Duerden (@dduerds)
"For me World Sight Day isn't just about the ability to see, or see clearly. With so much of the world's blindness and impairment easily preventable, it's not that difficult to see a world where everyone is able to share these views!"
Entry #3: Kevin Monahan (@kevindeanmonahan)
"There is nothing that humbles me more than staring up at the stars and thinking about how small we really are and how much is actually out there in the universe. But when I have the chance to also watch a meteor shower then I know I'm lucky. These events and conditions don't come around too often throughout the year so I can't help but to say thanks to my vision and health for allowing me to see something that people only dream about!"