In December 2023, volunteers from Tzu Chi USA journeyed to Tijuana, Mexico to offer medical check-ups for local residents. The check-ups have shown the pressing need for eye care, especially among children who are at crucial stages of learning. Recognizing the significance of timely vision checks and correction, the volunteers promptly organized eye examinations for disadvantaged school children in areas with limited resources.

With the meticulous coordination of Tzu Chi Mexico team and the expert guidance of Dr. Mencheh Lin (林孟潔), an experienced ophthalmologist, Tzu Chi USA mobilized a team of seasoned eye care volunteers. From February 14 to 17 the team provided eye examination services for economically challenged communities, including Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School, and impoverished families in the local area.

This initiative not only showcased concern for the ocular health of impoverished locals but also embodied Tzu Chi's dedication to spreading love and hope through practical actions, ensuring every child has a clear vision to pursue their dreams.

The Escuela Primaria Citlalmina Public School is a dilapidated and worn-out school nestled in the mountain valleys. | Photo by Shu-li Lo

The Dilapidated School in the Mountains

Nestled in the mountain valleys, the Escuela Primaria Citlalmina in Tijuana, Mexico, is a dilapidated school. Its narrow playground, intended for a hundred, is crammed with over eight hundred students during recess, leaving little space to move about.

Constructed with patched-together wooden panels, the school's exterior walls feature windows made from intersecting wooden bars covered with cloth. Inside, the desks and chairs are worn-out, and the dimly lit classrooms, adorned with only six light bulbs on the ceiling, struggle to provide adequate lighting, rendering them gloomy even during daylight. Faced with such challenging learning conditions, the volunteers felt deeply concerned about the students' visual health.

Vision Screening for Hundreds of Students

On February 14, before dawn, volunteers set off from Los Angeles, USA traveling southward. After enduring over three hours of bumpy roads, they finally arrived at Escuela Primaria Citlalmina in Tijuana, Mexico, at nine in the morning.

Once the Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at the school, they immediately began their charitable medical services. | Photo by Shu-li Lo

Tzu Chi volunteers immediately began providing eye examination services for the students at school. To empower local volunteers and enhance their contribution, Dr. Lin generously provided medical equipment and personally trained them to ensure they were proficient in eye screening. These efforts were aimed at broadening the scope of service in the future, reaching more people and fulfilling the noble goal of serving humanity.

Dr. Mencheh Lin is training local volunteers to use screening equipment. | Photo by Shu-li Lo

The local volunteers displayed remarkable learning abilities beyond expectations. After half a day of hands-on training, they had mastered the screening techniques and successfully completed vision screening for over a hundred students in just over five hours. The following day, Tzu Chi volunteers joined local volunteers to conduct vision screenings for both students and teachers at Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School. Students who failed the screening would undergo thorough vision examinations, including refraction tests, and receive glasses at the Tzu Chi campus before February 17.

The volunteers used instruments to screen the children's vision. | Photo by Shu-li Lo

It is noteworthy that all medical records during the vision screenings were handled electronically, making the process convenient and efficient. This achievement was made possible by the close collaboration and meticulous planning of Dr. Lin, along with Tzu Chi volunteers Christopher Yang (楊凱丞), and Jessica Su (蘇美娟), significantly enhancing the efficiency of this eye care initiative.

Optometry and Glasses Fitting Bring Light to Children's Lives

Before dawn on February 17, Dr. Lin from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), along with a group of dedicated Tzu Chi volunteers, set off once again from Los Angeles on their journey to Tijuana. Their mission: to conduct vision tests and provide glasses for fifty-six students. With the experienced Dr. Du-fu Weng (翁督富) joining Dr. Lin and the active participation of local volunteers, they successfully completed vision tests for forty-two students that day.

Eleven-year-old María José, a student at Escuela Primaria Citlalmina, had her eyes examined for the first time in her life during this screening. She expressed profound gratitude for the volunteers' efforts, as she could finally see the blackboard clearly. "I'm very grateful for the eye examination I received. I was a little nervous because it was my first time getting my eyes checked. Now, thanks to your support, I can see the blackboard clearly, and I no longer struggle with my homework," she said with a radiant smile.

Mirna brought her eleven-year-old twin sons for vision tests. Since birth, one of her sons had been diagnosed with strabismus, requiring surgery when he is older. The mischievous twins had broken their glasses, but with their family living in poverty, they could not afford new ones, leaving the children to navigate their world in a blur. Seeing the worry on Mirna's face, the volunteers decided to provide them with new glasses, granting the children clear vision.

Graciela Sánchez, the principal of Tijuana Tzu Chi Elementary School, accompanied students and parents to the campus. She expressed immense gratitude for the hard work of the TIMA doctors and volunteers. "Children having the opportunity to get glasses means better vision, understanding the content written on the blackboard, and improved learning outcomes," she said. "Many children in the school have vision problems, possibly due to genetics or poor nutrition."

She continued: "Recently, thanks to Tzu Chi's help, a leaking classroom was repaired, and excellent lighting was installed. Now, with the provision of free glasses, children from families with limited resources can obtain glasses. We are grateful for everything Tzu Chi has done."

Providing Eye Care for Impoverished Families

In addition to offering free eye exams for students at two schools, Tzu Chi doctors and volunteers also provided door-to-door eye care services for local families in need.

Dr. Mencheh Lin conducted vision tests and prescribed glasses for patients, gifting them with clear vision. | Photo by Shu-li Lo

Pedro Gualdivia's wife, who had undergone amputation due to diabetes, is cared for by Pedro himself, who climbs several flights of stairs from their hillside home to a more accessible house each day, just to make her more comfortable. Dr. Lin's thoughtful eye examination for them deeply moved him. He expressed his gratitude, mentioning that Tzu Chi had previously detected his prediabetic condition and now provided him with eye care. In three weeks, he would receive his glasses. Not one for words, his repeated thanks spoke volumes.