Teens collect eye glasses to give to needy in Haiti

Teens collect eye glasses to give to needy in Haiti

The team behind Vision for Haiti 2015 are (l-r) Fiona Briantais, Emily Ponak and primary organizer Eleonor Bauwens.

A year ago Eleonor Bauwens’ sister, Caroline, collected gently used eyeglasses to distribute to the needy in Haiti. She personally helped distribute the glasses on a trip to Haiti in September.

This year Eleonor is expanding on the project started by her sister, calling it Vision for Haiti 2015, and has brought in two friends in hopes of collecting more pair of glasses.

Eleonor also is happy that Caroline continues to be involved.

“She’s been helping me at school. She’s been helping me advertise it,” Eleonor said. “Keeping the project going along is another thing that keeps us close. My sister is my best friend.”

Last year, Caroline Bauwens collected 800 pairs of glasses.

“This year I’m hoping to collect at least 1,000 pairs of glasses,” Eleonor said. “I feel 1,000 is a good number to have as a goal. I think a bigger goal is to have 1,200 or 1,300 pairs.”

The friends can accept any prescription glasses, reading glasses or even sunglasses.

“They protect people with sensitive eyes,” Eleonor Bauwens said. “They can be prescription or normal sunglasses. We would need the frame with the lenses in it.” Bauwens attends Coral Gables High and her friends Emily Ponak from Gulliver and Fiona Briantais from the International Studies Charter. All three have been collecting at school.

Briantais said she always has liked watching humanitarian documentaries and wished she could be involved in one of the missions.

“I had no idea, before moving to Miami, that I would participate so quickly in this wonderful project and that I could improve lives of some Haitians who are in need of glasses,” Briantais said. “I know that we cannot stop the misery, but maybe we can make it better, just a little bit.”

Ponak said everyone has old glasses lying around the house and this would give them new life.

“Vision for Haiti 2015 is a great project because we’re not asking for money or anything; we’re asking for people to clean out their drawers and donate their glasses that won’t be used anymore,” she said.

Bauwens also is expanding the project to include the Coral Gables community. Although the collections at the schools have ended, the collections in the community continue through mid-April. She placed a box at the Coral Gables Youth Center and was working on getting boxes into local churches and temples.

The collections have been going well. In fact according to the project’s Facebook page, Coral Gables students alone donated more than 700 pairs of reading, prescription glasses and sunglasses.

When collections end, the glasses will be taken to Visionworks.

“We will use the Lens-O-Meter, which measures the prescription of the glasses, and gives a paper with the numbers,” Bauwens said.

With that information, the girls can organize the glasses and sort them. Sorting is a lengthy process but they hope to have that finished in June. Once they are sorted, they will be packed and taken to Haiti.

“I will travel to Haiti most likely with Fiona and Emily,” Bauwens said. “We will travel with an ophthalmologist (who is already in Haiti).”

In September, her sister traveled to Haiti with three to four suitcases filled to the brim with glasses. The glasses were well packed so not one broke during the trip, even though the glasses without cases were just in plastic bags. For more information, send email to visionforhaiti2015@yahoo.com or go to the Vision For Haiti Facebook page.

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