Free eyeglasses and the Order of Malta in Vancouver
Beginning in 2001 members of the Order of Malta in the Vancouver area together with various catholic parishes and outreach programs have been serving the needy through bi-annual eyeglass clinics in the lower mainland of Vancouver. For many poor and handicapped people and for those on low incomes the cost of eyeglasses can be a real barrier to getting the best eyesight possible. Some people are covered by welfare but the rules can be rigid and of course many do not have easy access to the facilities needed for eye examinations. For this reason we began an outreach clinic led by confrere Dr. David Neima at Holy Rosary Cathedral in 2001. The church staff identified 40 persons who needed help with their eyesight. On a Saturday afternoon, eye doctors examined these patients free of charge. We found that many of these people were legally blind for want of lenses and very much in need of assistance, and that others just needed very old glasses to be replaced. A few people had more serious eye conditions and follow up with local ophthalmologists, as well as free medications were arranged for them.
Tony Viani and some of his students from Douglas College optician’s program brought eye glasses and fit those patients needing glasses. They then made the glasses and returned a week later to fit the patients with their new glasses. The eyeglass costs were covered by donations from members of the local Order of Malta. This team has now completed 16 clinics over the last eight years at many different locations throughout the lower mainland. Many of the Knights and Dames have volunteered at the clinics so ably organized by confreres Frank & Terry McCullough.. We have given away over 600 pairs of glasses all made by Tony Viani and his students free of charge. We have depended on the pastors and their staffs of the local parishes and the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement at THE DOOR IS OPEN to locate persons in need and to arrange the location for the outreach clinics. Without the help of these wonderful people we wouldn’t be able to serve the poor in this way and so we are very grateful to them. It is a fundamental aspect of the spirit of the Order of Malta to serve the sick and poor.