Okanagan optometrist aids children in Cuba

Okanagan optometrist Catherine Goheen is making an urgent appeal for used eyeglasses for children in Cuba.

On a previous trip to Mozambique

Catherine Goheen is hoping to pack a couple more suitcases before she leaves for Cuba on Jan. 3.

But what she wants them full of is not her clothes but used eyeglasses donated by Okanagan residents, so she can deliver them to the Havana Children’s Hospital.

Goheen still has a couple more days to make her quota of four suitcases and she is hoping the people of the South Okanagan will help out by dropping off used glasses to the Dr. Spec’s Optical location at Penticton Plaza. Goheen said she there is a need for all sorts of glasses, including: adult or children’s prescription or non-prescription sunglasses, reading, distance, bi-focals, or progressive eyeglasses.

“Okanagan residents have donated eyeglasses to 27 countries in the last 16 years,” said Goheen, who makes regular pilgrimages to developing nations to distribute used glasses. “Imagine, we have changed lives in 27 countries. Tens of thousands of lives are better because of our donations.”

According to Goheen, in many developing nations, correcting poor eyesight with a pair of used eyeglasses can make the difference to ensure a child gets an education. Mothers who could no longer see close, she said, could not continue to work. They are forced to take their eldest child out of school, so the child could do her job.

“With our Okanagan eyeglasses, mothers have gone back to work and thus the kids have returned to school and the soccer field,” said Goheen. “Children who received eyeglasses were able to see the blackboard and had a chance to pass their studies.”

In Cuba, Goheen explained, the people are generally well-educated, hard-working, community-minded people. But they struggle with low wages and high prices for imports due to the decades-long U.S. embargo.

“The average worker, a doctor or a field worker likely earns $16 to $30 per month,” said Goheen.  “When I was in Cuba in 2004, the eyeglass frames on display were close to the same price as they are in Canada.  So how does one earn $30 per month and pay $100 for an eyeglass frame?  We can only imagine, but it appeared that many went without glasses.”

 

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