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Friday, May 7, 2021

iCare Club gives old lenses new homes

// Photo by Jake Tull
An ​​iCARE glasses donation box sits on a table in the Career Services Center on Monday, April 13, in Old Main. Used glasses deposited here will be sent to families in need in El Salvador. // Photo by Jake Tull

Western’s iCare Club is carrying out their vision of collecting eyeglasses for El Salvadorans in need with various donation boxes around campus until the end of April.

The iCare Club is working in partnership with the Bellingham Central Lions Club to collect these glasses. All of the donated glasses will be given to those in rural communities in El Salvador where many families are unable to afford eye care.

“So many of these people have never ever seen an eye doctor,” said Hannah Johnson, co-president of the iCare Club. “They will burst into tears because they’re so happy to get glasses.”

Johnson will be going to El Salvador this September on a trip organized by the Bellingham Central Lions Club and PeaceHealth. There she will assist doctors with finding the correct prescriptions, fit and distribute glasses and help the general community, she said.

Many students at Western have plenty of old prescription glasses or no longer used sunglasses to spare, Johnson said, and the main issue is oftentimes they don’t know they could be of use to someone else in need.

“It’s something that we don’t even think about how it can help someone,” she said. “Why not empty your drawers and change someone’s life at the same time?”

After the glasses are donated, they will be read in a lensometer, an instrument used to verify prescriptions to determine the prescription of donated glasses, Johnson said.

They will then be bagged with the prescriptions written on them and boxed up accordingly, she said. This way, when the volunteers administer eye exams in El Salvador, they will be able to quickly find the closest prescription possible, Johnson said.

Western senior Sarah Allaham heard about the drive around campus and said that she plans to donate all of her old prescription glasses that are no longer of use to her.

“I wear glasses and I usually have to renew my prescription every year or so, and it’s kind of expensive,” Allaham said. “I think it’s a good idea they want to help people who would not be able to afford it otherwise.”

PeaceHealth is a northwest centered nonprofit that promotes health and wellness primarily within communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska with an outreach to El Salvador for those who cannot afford adequate health care, according to the website.

“Overall, our goal is to improve vision across the globe and when it comes to donating glasses you’re helping to contribute to the process of correcting impaired vision globally,” freshman iCare Club member Christopher Salud said.

Students can donate any used or unused prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses and sunglasses.  Donation boxes can be found around campus in the Career Services Center, Wilson Library, the Atrium, the Student Health Center, the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and the 6th floor lobby of the Viking Union, Salud said.

“My word of advice to any Western students is to take those spare glasses that they aren’t using anymore and to put them in one of the donation boxes on campus.” Salud said. “There will be somebody in a country where they cannot afford correction for their eyes and they will be able to use them to their full potential.”

The iCare Club is a small club of that consists of a few active members, Johnson said. She said the club’s main goal is to help members prepare for optometry school and gain experience through volunteer work.

Johnson said if students still have glasses to donate after the end of the drive, the iCare Club will always be happy to take them.

The Bellingham Central Lions Club has donation boxes around Bellingham year-round for both eyeglasses and hearing-aids. The locations of these can be found on their website at www.bellinghamcentrallions.org.

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