They Can See Clearly Now
Institute for Catholic Bioethics Brings Donated Glasses to Developing Countries
Thursday, December 11, 2014
PHILADELPHIA (December 11, 2014) — In a small Barbelin Hall office tucked away on the building’s third floor, Theresa O’Doherty, administrator for the Institute of Catholic Bioethics, and Institute fellows Kathleen Logan ’16 and Lauren Kozlowski ’15, have amassed 1,500-plus pairs of used eyeglasses for Frames to Go, a program they began in June 2013.
From bedazzled cat-eye specs to imitation tortoise shell horn-rims, there are few styles that the trio hasn’t cleaned, sorted and measured with a lensmeter, and then packed in individual cases with a lens cloth, for passage to eye hospitals and free clinics in Nicaragua, Uganda or Sierra Leone.
“It’s not a very complicated process, but Frames to Go has a big impact,” says O’Doherty. “Through the donations we receive in our campus collection boxes and from other supporters like nearby Catholic schools and a family business that wanted to help, we are able to give the gift of improved vision to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to prescription glasses.”
With funds received from an SJU Diversity Grant, O’Doherty purchased the professional lensmeter with which she, Logan, Kozlowski and a growing cadre of bioethics fellows and mentees read each lens, so that when the glasses are distributed, the recipients will peer at their surroundings through the correct prescription. Missie Erikkson, an optician from Cherry Hill, N.J., trained the team to work with the lensmeter.
Peter Clark, S.J., the Institute director and professor of theology and health services, suggested to O’Doherty that she start Frames to Go as a permanent Institute initiative. Fr. Clark is thrilled with the program’s success.
“Frames to Go has helped some of the most vulnerable members of society in these developing countries,” Fr. Clark says. “Having delivered 150 pairs of glasses to a clinic in the barrios of Managua [Nicaragua], the evidence was clear on the optometrist's face when she saw the number and types of glasses we were able to provide. She explained that eye care is not a priority in developing countries, and as a result, many children will do poorly in school because they cannot see properly. This simple but unique program is making a real difference in the lives of these individuals.”
Logan, a McNulty Scholar and biology major from Springfield, Pa., says that in about two hours’ time, the fellows and mentees, who volunteer with the program every week, can get about 50 pairs of glasses processed. The work is tedious, precise and necessary, according to Logan.
“As someone who has poor eyesight, I rely on glasses or contacts every day,” she says. “I’m grateful that in a small way, I’m part of the ‘aha’ moment when one puts on a pair of glasses, and for the first time, can see the world clearly,” she says.
Kozlowski, a McNulty Fellow and biology major from Endwell, N.Y., says she was drawn to work with the program because “there are so many people in developing countries who lack access to even the most basic eye care, and Frames to Go has given me the opportunity to help.”
Both fellows are grateful to the many people who took the time to find their “old” glasses and donate them to the program. For information on how to donate used glasses to Frames to Go, contact O’Doherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 610-660-3425.