Tzu Chi Vision Mobile: Better Vision for Homeless Women

The need for proper eye care is high in the community, and patients were eager to get examined. Photo by Luca Yeh

Written and adapted by Amy Teng, Charlene Lin, and David Hoy
Translated by Wei Qingjun
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

Driving to remote areas and low-income communities, Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile team has been devoted to bringing clarity to people’s lives. On June 7th, 2019, the Vision Mobile van arrived at the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles to offer services that would help twenty people see the world more clearly. 

The Downtown Women’s Center, which was established in 1978, is situated at the heart of a large homeless population. The use of drugs and alcohol are also a regular sight at night, and oftentimes, people struggle with untreated psychological issues as well. The Downtown Women’s Center  – which is also a charity organization that offers medical services – provides a safe place for women who are homeless to take shelter. 

According to one TIMA member, Lina Lin, the medical outreach that day was originally projected to serve fifteen patients, but ended up helping twenty people due to the need for eye care in the area. Many of these homeless patients have myopia or astigmatism. 

Finally being able to see clearly can change a person's life drastically for the better. Photo by Luca Yeh
Tzu Chi brings its Vision Mobile services to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles. Photo by Luca Yeh

The comprehensive services rendered by the Optometry Mobile Clinic is one way we’re helping these women find work, as our eye tests and prescription eyeglasses are provided at no cost to the patient.

Better Vision for a Better Life

Travon Edwards, a patient with Albinism, told us her story at the event. Although she was born blind, she did regain some level of her sight at two months old, and at three years of age, she’d learned to read. She later learned to walk without a cane, and took gymnastics and ballet lessons to improve her balance. She tried her best to make peace with her disability.

Travon worked at Kaiser Permanente Hospital, and recounted how many of her colleagues hadn’t even realized that she was nearly blind. She quit her job, however, to take care of her mother until she passed away. With such a low level of vision, she’s had an exceptionally difficult time finding another job. As a result, she has been homeless for some time now. 

Travon said she desperately needed a pair of glasses so that she could work again. Without them, she can’t write, take a reading test, or fill out job applications. At the Vision Mobile Clinic, our Optometrist, Lina Lin, gave Travon a vision test and made her a special eyeglass prescription to help her get back on track. 

Making a Better World

Travon was notified after her exam that she would receive the glasses specifically made for her in just two weeks. She was visibly touched and excited, “I’m very happy because they’re going to be calling me to work for the city to be a child advocate for deaf and blind children. I want to work with them. I want to help. I want to give help and also help myself.”

With a new pair of eyeglasses, Travon will not only be able to get back on her feet – she will be going back to helping the community. For our Optometrist, Lina Lin, it really does pay to provide free vision care. 

From making peace with her life to helping children with disabilities, Travon is both seeing and making a better world.

A Patient from Georgia

The homeless community in Los Angeles includes people from other states as well. One of them, Donna Gate, is from Georgia state. She was very relieved to see the Vision Mobile van had come to the Downtown Women’s Center because she, too, is long overdue for a proper eye check.

I wish they had this kind of service in Atlanta, Georgia, where I'm from.

Donna Gate, Vision Mobile Patient

Donna said the vision test and eyeglass prescription helped her a great deal – she hadn’t had a vision exam for a very long time. The last time she had her eyes checked, she had cataracts that required surgery. She expressed her sincere hopes that Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile volunteers would keep providing their vision care to the community.

Vision mobile volunteers and doctors travel straight into the heart of communities that need the services the most. Photo by Luca Yeh
With Tzu Chi Vision Mobile, people can access these vital services regardless of their ability to pay. Photo by Luca Yeh

A World of Clarity

It was perhaps three or four years ago that Sandra Ford last saw an eye doctor. She told us that just the day before our Vision Mobile van came to town, she had wished to have her eyes checked again. She was surprised that her wish had come true so soon!  

Sandra owned a pair of glasses that were so old they wouldn’t properly stay on her face anymore. She had promised herself that she’d buy a pair of glasses once she saved enough money. 

At first, she debated coming to the event, but she ultimately did resolve to get examined. She soon received her new pair of glasses for free, thanking both God and Tzu Chi’s medical outreach team for helping her. 

Upon stepping out of the Vision Mobile van, Sandra couldn’t wait to put her new glasses on. She looked around with excitement as everything that had once been a blur became familiar again. “I can see clearly now!” she’d said, full of joy. Upon seeing her smile, volunteers and patients, too, felt smiles grow on their own faces. 

Better Vision, Better World

The Vision Mobile Clinic provides not only vision care, but also a welcome sense of hope. During an interview, Lina Lin had referred to Travon. She explained how Travon couldn’t find a job due to her vision, and therefore became homeless. With a pair of glasses, she will have a better chance of returning to the job market. Furthermore, she plans to help children who have disabilities just like herself. 

We at Tzu Chi believe all people are deserving of good health, and with the help of Tzu Chi Optometrists and volunteers, these women will now have better vision. Soon, they will live a better life in a clearer world.

The success of Tzu Chi’s medical outreach events depends on our dedicated volunteers. We welcome you to become a member of the global Tzu Chi family – please contact your local Tzu Chi office to learn more!

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Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation
1008 S. Garfield Ave., Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel +1 (626) 427-9598
Fax +1 (626) 281-5303

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Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a GuideStar Platinum Participant.

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