Jamaica Eye Care Mission

Written By: Dr. Tina Goodhew


In the late 80s, at the age of 17, I wrote a reflective letter to myself stating that “Since the age of 14, I have had a burning desire to contribute to the world in some manner and have asked myself what should I do with my life that will be worthwhile.”  From that time I decided that I would visit a third world country someday and help care for those less fortunate than myself. It took much longer that I had anticipated but I did just this in January of 2018.

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Patients waiting to be seen

I travelled to Jamaica with a group called Canadian Vision Care (CVC) on an eye care mission. CVC is a charity dedicated to providing eye care to those without the funds necessary or access to proper care founded in 1981. CVC has since provided care to not only Jamaica, but to Costa Rica, the Philippines, Africa and Guyana. Beyond just providing eye care, CVC has set up schools in Africa and the Philippines to train Optometrists and has established a couple of permanent clinic sites. One is an Eyetrain in the Philippines where a couple of train cars have been converted into a full scope eye clinic with all the necessary equipment and an optical. The latest clinic is a huge endeavor that involved rejuvenating a retired hospital in Jamaica that had been closed and left to ruin.  The clinic is up and running now with 4 full lanes of equipment and an optical. In addition, a surgical suite is being put together to provide much needed surgical care.

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Dr. Tina checking the health of this young patient’s eyes

During my week long mission, 4 doctors and 3 staff saw about 300-400 patients per day.  Just for comparison sake – in my Oakville office I typically see 20 patients a day. It was such a pleasure to be rewarded with huge smiles from those so thankful for the care they received. Unfortunately, there was heartbreak as well. In one case, a young mother of 3 had travelled quite far to get the glasses she was sure would allow her to return to work to help provide for her family and I had to tell her that she had a corneal disease that was progressive and glasses could not restore her ailing sight. Delivering this news was made harder by knowing that if she lived in Canada, she could receive a corneal transplant that would bring back her vision.

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Dr. Jeff checking a patient for glaucoma

Every culture has its own unique sensibilities and what I noted about Jamaicans was how polite and respectful they are.  We were in crowded facilities on hot days (temps in the 30s) with no air conditioning and not even the children complained.  Children sat for hours in these conditions without cell phones or any type of entertainment and there was not an “I’m bored” or “Can we go now?” peep. Anytime I addressed one of the kids it was “Yes, Miss” and they did exactly what I asked of them. When crowds swelled and there were not enough chairs; as soon as a lady or an elderly person approached, a man or younger person would give up their chair. The other thing that struck me about Jamaicans was how happy they are. Many do not have much in the way of material possessions but they have a strong faith and close community that keeps them cheerful.

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Drs. Jeff & Tina getting organized ahead of a busy day.

The World Health Organization notes that the leading cause of functional blindness in the world is uncorrected refractive error – meaning that simply not having access to eye glasses is the main cause of people living with blindness.  I am so grateful that I was born in this wonderful country of Canada and have had access to healthcare, education and everyday comforts that leave me wanting for nothing. I feel blessed to have gone on this mission and hope to partake in many more. If we each contribute in any manner we can, we do make this world a better place.

PS If you have any old glasses you would like to donate, we use them on missions such as this.