Kelly, a teacher from Connecticut, joined us on a TOMS Giving Trip through TOMS Ticket to Give. Below, she shares her experiences...
I know what it’s like not to be able to see — at least for the 30 seconds it takes my half-awake hand to find my glasses on the night stand each morning. I am one of the 285 million people worldwide who has difficulty seeing.
Thankfully, glasses and contacts prescribed by my doctors have given me the gift of sight. Reading a book, cooking dinner for my family and navigating through each day are everyday occurrences requiring little or no thought on my part. No one needs to guide me through the village streets because cataracts have clouded my vision. My 12-year-old daughter does not have to stay home from school to prepare our family meals because I have to use my hands to “see” the open fire.
July of 2013 opened my eyes and helped me to see once again. I was one of the lucky people to have been voted to go on a TOMS Giving Trip. My trip led me to Guatemala City to an internationally recognized vision clinic named Visualiza, inspired and staffed by talented doctors and professional, caring staff. Visualiza’s unique approach to serving both the private and social sectors within the confines of the same thoughtfully reconstructed building, affords quality eye care to hundreds of people a day. Patients on the private side subsidize a small portion of the social sector’s care while partners like TOMS help subsidize the rest.
At Visualiza, I watched as a woman’s eye patch was removed following her cataract surgery the day prior, and I listened as she gave thanks for — in her words — “the miraculous” return of her vision. A little girl was gently led into an examination chair and given drops for an infection in her eye. In the next room, a man was being fitted with new prescription glasses. And down the hall in the operating room, multiple patients received precision cataract surgery in carefully calculated succession. All this in a matter of minutes — we were sufficiently impressed.
Visualiza also invited TOMS Giving Trip winners to participate in an outreach camp about an hour out of the city on a Saturday morning. Our group pulled up to a cinder block school, refit with organized stations for registration, visual acuity screenings, medical treatment, glasses fitting and surgical consultation. I tried to count the number of mothers and children sitting in the long line of plastic chairs but lost count after the first 25 or so, my attention diverted by the smiling face of each patient. The scope of the vision program is truly impressive. The services offered by Visualiza with the support of TOMS — thanks to One for One TOMS Eyewear customers everywhere — are extraordinary.
I want to bring the hope I saw on the faces of each mother and child and the spirit of generosity inspired by TOMS back to my classroom in Connecticut. Because as a teacher, my job goes beyond instructing curriculum; I aim to teach the child, not the text. I want my students to understand and apply rather than memorize and repeat. I need them to know that it’s OK to make mistakes; what matters is how you fix them. These are the important lessons.
TOMS has been a key component in developing my young global learners, 22 8-year-olds at a time, year after year. They love to celebrate One Day Without Shoes every April and this year they will be thrilled to expand their thinking on Oct. 10 when we celebrate World Sight Day. Their parents will ask why their teacher is telling them, “It’s okay to #BESHADY” and my 8-year-olds, in turn will, teach their parents.
To enhance the learnings in the fabulous toolkit available from TOMS, my students will also have their annual vision screening with our school nurse, view some of the amazing photos from my trip, learn about the anatomy of the human eye, conduct a science experiment with UV beads, illustrate and write about their most precious view and, of course, wear sunglasses in the classroom!
Thank you TOMS for helping me to open the eyes of others.