Reflecting on What's Truly Important

By Matthew Alpert, OD December 07, 2015

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

I (far left), along with representatives from VSP, pose with Vula Mazibuko Primary School learners in Soweto, South Africa, who received no-cost eye exams and new Nike glasses.

“I want to be a doctor.” “I want to be a lawyer.” “My favorite subject is math.” These are a few of the responses I heard when talking with a number of the primary school students we met with in Soweto, South Africa earlier this month.

These are the same type of responses you’d expect to hear from students of the same age in the community in which I practice here in the United States. It’s a good reminder that while we might be separated by distance, there are still more similarities than differences when it comes to humanity and a child’s aspirations and unhindered world of possibilities.

As we enter into the sometimes hectic holiday season, it provides an opportunity for a lot of us to reflect on what’s truly important. As optometrists, the role we play in a person’s life is unique. We have the opportunity to not only provide care to patients, but to impact how they are able to interact with the world around them. Every child has their own world of possibilities. But for some, those possibilities can get lost in daily challenges.

We are halfway through a project we launched in Soweto with Brien Holden Vision Institute and Nike. The focus is to help overcome immediate challenges involving access to eye care and eyewear by providing eye health services to an estimated 30,000 children and creating sustainable solutions to address community needs by not just emphasizing the delivery of care, but also the importance of education, training and infrastructure development. I’m happy to report that we are exceeding our target for providing eye health services and by project close should meet our three sustainable objectives. For this community, that means one less barrier to reaching those aspirations.

The world is full of possibilities and I’m thankful for having an opportunity to have a hand in helping some of them become more achievable, both halfway around the world and right here in my own community. Stay up-to-date on our progress in Soweto and learn more about the no-cost Eyes of Hope programs, equipment and services available to VSP doctors to leverage in their efforts to make an impact in communities in need, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Welizibuko Primary School learners in Soweto, South Africa, smile after they received no-cost eye exams and new Nike glasses.


A group of learners, school faculty and representatives from VSP, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, and the Gauteng Departments of Health and Education pose with me (back row, center) during my recent time in South Africa.


A group of learners wait for an eye exam at the Nike Football Training Centre.


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