Sending Kids Back to School with a Smile

By Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD August 25, 2015

It’s that time of year when kids are heading back to school, and as most of us know, an estimated one in four is returning with a vision problem that could affect learning. To help address the need in my community, I recently volunteered on the VSP Mobile Eyes clinic at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County to provide no-cost eye care and eyewear to a group of children who wouldn’t have the ability to attain it otherwise.

It was a great set up where I could focus on providing the eye care and VSP provided everything else – including prescription eyewear to the kids who required it. Each time I volunteer, it serves as a great reminder of a key role we play in a person’s life by increasing their ability to see and engage with the world around them.

One of the most memorable moments was a family that brought in their son, eight years old and daughter, age seven in for exams. The daughter reminded me much of myself at her age—we even looked quite similar. She was highly nearsighted with 20/400 vision uncorrected and had lost her glasses several months ago, whereas her brother had never worn glasses. Both were able to leave that day seeing better with their new glasses and their parents relieved that they are better equipped for their school year.

Volunteering on the mobile clinics provides for a well-rounded experience for the kids to be introduced to optometry - including being able to watch the lenses being cut and their glasses put together! Involving them in the process made it much more personal for them versus just another doctor’s appointment.

For this event specifically, we helped 30 children, some with high prescriptions that had never worn glasses before or had broken theirs and couldn’t afford to replace them. Many of the kids thought they were seeing fine prior to their exam, but actually needed glasses for reading and focusing on distance learning at school.

I am a huge proponent of my peers giving back to his or her community – and I know a lot who do.  Who doesn’t love the opportunity to trade the day-to-day hectic schedule for smiling faces, hugs, and high fives from patients? Check out the VSP Mobile Eyes program to learn how you can leverage their no-cost outreach programs to support your community.

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