SEC 2012 - Bringing Eye Glasses to Rural Guatemala

Blog entry by Rebecca King, University of Melbourne.

Today was one of the busiest and most rewarding days of the program so far. We started at 5:30 a.m. to travel to the far town of Conguaco, which is about four hours away. Once there, we all were lucky enough to present the solar products in Spanish to a group of mayors and town leaders who may not have electricity in their areas. Of course, the presentation was in Spanish, so those of us whose Spanish skills are not as advanced played a vital presenter/demonstrator role, which thoroughly entertained the mayors.

In the afternoon we had a major sales campaign in the town for glasses, as well as all the other products such as filters, solar lamps, and seeds. When we entered the hall, there were already around 60 people waiting to have their eyes tested. Many of them had travelled far to be there and had already waited a few hours.

Overall, we tested around 150 people for short- and long-distance sight problems over more than 4 hours. According to our program coordinator, it was one of the most successful campaigns for the organization, clearly showing the high need for accessible and cheap products in rural areas.

One of the hardest parts of the day was helping complete the long-distance eye tests. There was one man who was led in by his son because his sight was so bad. When asked to do the test, he could hardly even see the wall. Obviously, we cannot provide a solution for his eye problem because it is very complicated. We were able to give him a referral to an eye clinic that will treat him for a cheaper price, but even then he most likely could not afford the treatment that would allow him to see.

Despite these moments, we were able to help a lot of people with their eye problems, as well as sell multiple other products. The day was a great learning experience for all of us to experience a more rural area of Guatemala and the problems locals face.