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Columbia Eye Consultants provide eyewear in Buy One Give One program.
When the doctors at Columbia Eye Consultants were deciding how they could make a difference philanthropically, they all knew they wanted to do something they were good at: providing eye care. They also knew they wanted to make a lasting difference.
“What good have you done people if you go and help once and leave them?” Dr. Jeff Gamble asks.
Kindsight 2020 is a buy-one-give-one program in which a pair of glasses is donated to a patient in need in Chichicastenango, Guatemala for every pair of glasses purchased at the Columbia clinic. The doctors also personally rotate taking trips to Guatemala every six months to visit with and help patients.
“It seems like the need is endless there,” Gamble says. “People will walk all day to come get an eye exam.”
Patients in Chichicastenango have often spent lengthy periods of time without glasses, are exposed to high levels of UV rays, and have a genetic predisposition for vision problems. CEC has treated approximately 4,000 to 5,000 patients in Guatemala over the years, and most patients receive frames or lenses of some kind. The doctors typically see 200 to 300 patients per trip.
The program was started by Gamble’s father, Dr. Jim Gamble, 15 years ago and has now grown into a program embraced by all of the doctors and staff at CEC and their families. They all work with local Guatemalan staff — teens and spouses that don’t necessarily have eye expertise can help Guatemalan patients select their glasses and schedule appointments. The doctors also partner with an optometry school so its students have the opportunity to serve patients and gain hands-on experience.
“All the doctors felt likeminded that we wanted to tie the mission into the practice,” Dr. Chris DeRose says.
The doctors appreciate that patients in Columbia can get involved, even if they can’t travel to Guatemala. Patients in the clinic that select a pair of glasses to donate will receive an email with a photo of the patient in Guatemala wearing the glasses. Columbia patients can also donate old lenses and glasses to the cause. In the future, the doctors hope that patients can join them on their trips.
The program that started 15 years ago has blossomed into an almost full-fledged clinic, and the doctors would like to see it grow more. They would like to partner with other optometry clinics and schools who would like to participate and perhaps serve patients in multiple locations. Gamble described the program as a “packaged model” that could work for any country in need.