If you noticed that your local eye doctor, Emily Lough, was unavailable for the week of June 18, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. She was in El Salvador, helping to distribute hundreds of pairs of prescription glasses.
Twenty-one people went on the mission trip, from four churches: Philadelphia Church of Christ in Lebanon (where Lough attends), Berea Church of Christ, Central Church of Christ in Sparta, and Florence Church of Christ. Lough was the only doctor among them. This is the fifth trip that the group has organized .
The primary mission of the week was to distribute some of the 2,000 pairs of prescription glasses that were donated by the Lion’s club. Over 300 pairs were given way this week; they left the other 1,700 in El Salvador, to be used on future trips.
“It’s a program through a guy in Kentucky,” said Lough. “The lion’s club donates him glasses. We took 2,000 pair, bifocal, single vision, and children’s down.”
They used a handheld auto-refractor to identify basic prescriptions. “It links up to a computer and tells us what will work from them,” said Lough. “Some people would just start crying because they’ve never had glasses. You have to have kind of a lot of money down there to be able to afford to go to the eye doctor. So it was really exciting. Especially the little kids, they were looking around… they were so excited because they had never seen that stuff before. I’m really nearsighted, and there was a couple people with prescriptions like mine, and I thought ‘if I didn’t have glasses I wouldn’t’ be able to work’. And they were just freaking out. They were really excited.
“All the years before we’ve just taken over-the-counter reading glasses. And it was nice for some of the older people, but it just wasn’t exact. But here, you could really tell they were excited because they could see far away, they could see up close.
“We went to six different churches up there. We really tried to help the widows the most needy, so the churches went out ahead of time and looked around, and they gave out little tickets. So we saw around 130 people one day, 150 another day, and if we still had time at the end of a day we’d see people who didn’t have tickets.
“We also gave out about 1,500 food bags, and they do the same thing with those, they go out and they know members of the church and go into the community too, and we gave out children’s bags the same way. They gave away 1275 children’s bags with things like toothbrush, toothpaste, crayons, play-dough, and a coloring book. The theme this time was Lazarus, so they gave a little coloring book about that. And then we gave away 230 baby bags, those had a bottle, petroleum jelly, diapers, and things like that.
“We stayed in El Salvador, and the churches they worked out of were in San Bartolo, Apopa, Guazapa, Santa Elena, and San Marcos.
“We also went around to some hospitals and gave away over 200 doctors, and we gave them blankets, and some of the churches, we painted and hung up fans for them too, because it’s so hot and there’s no air conditioning.
“They’re so excited to get just a little bit of stuff, the food bag we’d give them would just have three pounds of beans, two pounds of rice, spaghetti sauce and noodles, and dried milk and olive oil. You would think we gave them a million dollars; they’re so excited. I think it’s enough for them to live off of for two weeks. They are so excited over just the smallest thing there. It’s very humbling, for sure, and makes you appreciate what we have a whole lot more.”
El Salvador, for those with a little gap in memory from 9th grade geography, is one of the smaller countries that connect Mexico with the bulk of the continent of South America.