A year ago, Eleonor Bauwens helped her sister collect used eyeglasses for the needy in Haiti, then helped distribute them to Haitians in September. This year, she expanded the project with a new title Vision for Haiti 2015 and enlisted two friends, Emily Ponak and Fiona Briantais, to help her collect the eyewear.
Bauwens says her sister, Caroline, continues to be involved in the project.
“My sister is my best friend and she has been helping me at school this year, helping me advertise it,” says Bauwens. “Keeping the project going helps keep us close.”
Last year, the drive collected 800 pairs of glasses.
“This year I’m hoping to collect at least 1,000 pairs,” says Bauwens. “One-thousand is a good number to set as a goal; but to collect 1,200 or 1,300 pairs would be even better.”
All types of eyewear are acceptable for Vision for Haiti 2015 — prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses and even sunglasses.
“Sunglasses help protect people with sensitive eyes,” Bauwens says. “We accept both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses, but we want the frame to have lenses.”
Bauwens attends Coral Gables High School, Ponak attends Gulliver and Briantais is from the International Studies Charter. All three have been diligently collecting eyewear at their individual schools.
Briantais says she has always enjoyed viewing humanitarian documentary videos and wanted to be involved in a meaningful project to help humanity.
“Before moving to Miami, I had no idea that I would participate in this wonderful project and that I could improve the lives of Haitians who need of glasses,” Briantais says. “I know that we cannot stop the misery, but maybe we can make their lives better just a little bit.”
Ponak says just about everyone has unused eyeglasses lying around the house and Vision for Haiti 2015 will give them new life.
“It’s a great project because we’re not asking for money, we’re asking people to clean out their desk drawers and donate their glasses that they aren’t using anymore,” she says.
Bauwens has expanded the project this year to include the Coral Gables community. Although the collections at 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, she says. According to the Vision For Haiti Facebook page, Coral Gables students donated more than 700 pairs of reading glasses, prescription glasses and sunglasses. When collections end, the donated eyewear will be taken to Visionworks.
“We will use the Lens-O-Meter, which measures the prescription of the glasses and prints out a paper with the numbers,” Bauwens says.
With that information, the girls can organize the glasses and sort them. Sorting is a lengthy process, but they hope to finish in June. Once the eyeglasses are sorted, they will be packed and transported to Haiti.
“I will travel to Haiti, most likely with Fiona and Emily,” Bauwens says. “We will travel with an ophthalmologist.”
Last September, Caroline Bauwens took four suitcases packed with eyewear to Haiti and provided needed glasses to hundreds of Haitians.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Vision For Haiti Facebook page.