A team of Optométristes Sans Frontières was in Honduras from February 24 to March 5, 2001 on a rather unusual and enterprising mission which enabled them to reach a particularly disadvantaged part of the population.
The group went to Nueva Palestina, a small hamlet of 3,000 souls, who have no electricity and who are seemingly forgotten at the end of a dirty road, four¬ hours outside of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Living conditions were obviously not very comfortable, but the group was made up of veterans Fernand Laflamme, Michel Desrosiers and Jean de Lorimier, with Suzanne St-Laurent and Martine Jourde as assistants. “What was most important,” asserted Dr Fernand Laflamme, ” was that we could reach people’ who normally have absolutely no way of getting such eye care considering their isolation”.
The parish priest of Nueva Palestina, Jose Benite Mercadal, added that “there are lots of people who do have eye problems, and health care and medicines are both practically non-existent. This is why the coming here of a team of optometrists is seen as a blessing. The people are extremely grateful.” During their one-week stay, the optometrists examined 375 men, women and children and distributed nearly as many pairs of spectacles corresponding as closely as possible to the needs. Sunglasses, that will help lessen the problems resulting from prolonged exposure to the bright sun, were also given out.
Once more there were touching moments during this mission which illustrate the value of the help given. “There was this man of about 60 who put on spectacles for the first time. As he placed them on the tip of his nose, two large tears flowed clown his cheeks,” says Michel Desrosiers; and Jean de Lorimier relates how a woman burst out laugh when putting on spectacles. “She could not get over seeing people and things so clearly.”