Thursday, July 11, 2019


It's been another lovely project with TWECS full of bountiful affirmations of WHY projects like this matter. What really resonated with me this trip was community. Community in the places who hosted us, full of people who work hard year round to elevate the quality of life for the people they serve. Community in the people we served who helped each other understand our limited Spanish and brought their families, friends and neighbors to the clinics. Community in the lovely little hotel we stayed at who were not only excited to host our group but some hotel staff came and volunteered at the clinic, too. Community in the excitement of watching Peru play in the gold metal game of the COPA soccer final. Within all of that, the community of our team who maybe strangers at first or long time friends (and familes too!), experienced in the industry or laypeople all coming together to work hard to help bring clear vision to these delightful people. There was a strong family dynamic as well with parents and their teens on this project and it was powerful to watch the passion, integrity and impetus of efforts like this be experienced and shared together as family.  

We may be all individuals but collectively, we are much more. Everyday on the way to clinic sites, we drove past a variety of sculptures that adorn some of the boulevards in downtown Lima and the hands holding up the earth made me think of the community of Earth and when all play together, what a wonderful world indeed.

Trina Mendria
Licensed Optician
Victoria, BC


This is my first eye care mission trip since I was in optometry school 25 years ago and I have been so looking forward to it. It’s hard to believe that it has come to an end. Each day has been filled with so many emotions, excitement, frustration, exhaustion and a whole lot of fun.  The third day when we were in Jicamarca we were on a roll in triage- (that means picking out the people that don’t need glasses, need further testing or sending them to get glasses) we were seeing a girls school. One after the other there were a number of girls with 20/20 vision and no need for glasses. I know enough spanish to tell them “los ojos es mui bien- no nececittas para los lentes” ( your eyes are fine and you do not need glasses)  Suddenly one of those girls pulled Father Paul over who offered to help with translation so she could talk to me. She was worried because when she read her eyes get tired and water. Suddenly there were 6 other girls surrounding me. My first thought was “uh oh” this is not part of the plan. There were people lined up waiting to be seen and I did not have time for this. My thought initially was for Father Paul to just tell them all that their eyes were checked and were fine so I could keep the line moving. But I took a moment and looked at their eager faces which were all very concerned. 

They politely raised their hands and waited for Father Paul to call on them. Their questions may have seemed minor but not to them. I took the time to listen to each of them and answer their questions. At the end they all smiled and gave me a gracias. My colleagues Rita and Brad came over to make sure everything was ok when they saw the girls crowded around me. I told them I had it under control. Later Brad asked me what had happened and my response without thought was that a bunch of teenage girls just needed to be heard. 

Don’t we all. I have truly enjoyed being a part of TWECS Peru project. I love the camaraderie of the team who came together from Canada and different parts of the US. A group of different ages, background and experiences with a common mission to bring eye care to those who may not have easy access to that care with respect, dignity and a sense of fun. Thank you Derrick and Marina for all the work you put into this project which was so well organized. Thank you to the people that sponsored and supported me on this project. My family, friends and especially to Anne Searle who along with her coworkers at Trellance very generously sponsored me with funds and donated eye glasses. Until next time.

Rene Royal, OD
Minnesota, USA


Today we returned for our second day at Fe y Alegria school in Canto Grande, arriving to an even longer line of people than yesterday. We were already set up from the day before, started out smoothly and efficiently, and were able to see almost fifty more patients than yesterday.

I felt an added pressure to finish exams quickly so that the patients could watch Peru v. Brazil in the Copa América final, though I won’t go into how the game turned out... One of the most memorable moments of the day for me was finding one of my patients wearing her new glasses and bringing her to watch the game with me on the tiny television at the refreshment stand knowing she would be able to see it! 

I had the pleasure of meeting with a few of my patients after their visits to the dispensary, including my first patient of the day. Lisa brought her back to show me how happy she was and I could not help but to hug her and celebrate her newly improved vision. These moments of celebration happen all throughout our mission and witnessing that moment gave me strong motivation for the day. Watching another woman change from tears of sadness to those of joy after I told her she gets to keep the low vision device I gave her for sewing was another one of those moments. Aside from all we are able to accomplish for our patients visually, we hope to instill in them an understanding of the importance of eye care. This vision mission has been enlightening and encouraging for me to continue forward in this profession and the volunteer opportunities it allows.  

In addition to the special moments we share with our patients, our group has as many memorable moments spent with each other. Whether learning, teaching skills, teaching Spanish, sharing stories, sharing hotel rooms, sharing unusual office spaces, sharing meals, or spending time, we are a strong, united, affectionate group of people with a mutual understanding of the importance of loving others. For this, I could not be more fulfilled. 
By Dr. Elisabeth Hottel, New Mexico

Monday, July 8, 2019


What a week! This trip was filled with many different emotions and friendships  made that will last a lifetime.

 I just want to share an experience that made my trip more memorable. Near the end of the day as the line and commotion of the Peruvian people started to die down and the fireworks for the soccer match began, I met a lady I will never forget. I was dispensing glasses and I came upon this lady near the back of the line...quiet, straight faced, callused hands, torn clothes flip flops and wrinkles all over her face. I called her to sit down on one of the chairs we had laid out for the people receiving glasses. I looked at her sheet and I saw that my mom had written a prescription for her near vision only (readers). After about five minutes of trying to find the right pair I finally walked back to her excited to give away my very first pair of glasses in dispensing; which is a real honour in the TWECS community as only the hardest working kids get to hand out the glasses.  I put on her glasses but her straight face was still not changed or satisfied. As I walked away disappointed in the expression of my very first patient she got up and followed me and started speaking to me in spanish. I picked up a few words and I realized she said she wanted glasses for walking. I took her paper and saw she only saw fingers at 4ft away from her eyes. Bewildered i looked at her paper and realized she had cataracts. I called over one of the senior opticians, Trina and she told me to try a +1.00 but it is highly unlikely that it would work. So I grabbed a +1.00 pair of eyeglasses and guided her over to the visual acuity charts which is used to measure distance vision and instantly as she put on the glasses her straight face expression changed for a split second to an excited and surprised look. As I measured her distance vision(lejos) she went from counting fingers at 3ft. to seeing 20/40 at 10 ft. She gave me a hug and walked away. I walked away satisfied and happy with my work because I may have changed her life forever with that pair of eyeglasses.  And I hope to change more lives just like I did today. Making the world a better place one person at a time.
Evan March
Senior Student, St. Thomas More Colegiate


We started this project on Canada Day, it feels easy to appreciate Canada looking through the prism of this trip. I am proud to live in a country that celebrates diversity in all aspects: this team comes from all different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds and ages-in fact, 2 team members are over 70 and 5 are under 18. 

I am also proud that as Canadians we recognize the importance of respecting all humanity, and of protecting equal rights for all.  There are 6 doctors on this team, and I am the only man. The leader of this project-Dr. Marina Roma March (one of my personal heros) is a global example of what strong, compassionate women can do when placed in leadership positions.  I’m proud that our team can be progressive role models for people in areas of the world that don’t enjoy the type of equality that we do. 

On previous TWECS trips I have always been amazed by our “magic box” of glasses and low vision devices- all of the things we have packed up over the months leading up to this trip seem to be magically just what we need in the moment:

This woman was 12 years old when she last had glasses- she fell and they broke and she has never been able to replace them. Her prescription is -18.00. How could we possibly have the correct thing for her?!  It must be magic. Or God. Or the Universe, or spirit, or whatever you call it. 

The look on this woman’s face when she finally put on this pair of glasses will stay with me for the rest of my life. This is a young optometrist Elizabeth who worked with her, and I hope this moment inspires her to have a lifetime of giving. 

This legally blind 17 year old girl has been struggling with her whole life, defined by her blindness.  We were able to provide her with some high-end North American devices that I hope will change and empower her life going forward. She has nystagmus, and is very uncomfortable and light sensitive and she was so happy with the simple sunglasses we gave her (they were very fashionable and were pink) that she essentially glossed over the much more significant low vision devices that may have a bigger impact on her life in the long run.  It’s a reminder that everyone wants to look good, and this blind girl in Canto Grande was feeling her look in these sunglasses. She insisted I take a picture of us on my phone (not even hers):

It is a privilege to be able to work beside Marina and Derrick as they continue to change the world with their dedication and hard work. 
An idea I love and often think of comes from Mr. Rogers:
“Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?  You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.  All you have to do is think and they will grow”
This trip is fertilizing the garden of my mind and warming my heart at the same time. 
Dr. Brad McDougall, Vancouver BC


This is my second eye care mission to Peru and tenth overall. What makes this one extra exciting, is that I was able to bring my 15 year-old daughter, Teagan, along for the experience. Since she and her brother were very little, “Mom” has been disappearing for at least two weeks a year to help others who live remotely and don’t have access to eye care and glasses. This isn’t easy on the family who are left behind and I’m very appreciative for a supportive husband who knows how important these trips are to me. Now she, too, understands the joy these trips bring to everyone involved. She also has the opportunity to see how others live and more importantly, to realize how similar we all are as humans, no matter one’s circumstances. 

Working specifically as a volunteer optometrist is the only skill I have that I feel confident about. So I love being here and putting that skill to good use. I was told in 2012, my first mission to Peru, “You are providing dignity to the least wealthy of our people. They are not used to even seeing doctors, let alone having the doctors smile at them, talk to them, and hug them.” Those words have stuck with me ever since. Everyone deserves to feel dignified and if I can do that AND provide glasses to help further their education, help them do their job, and simply improve their quality of life, then I’m all in. 100% of me wants to do that. Hugs from little children and the abuelos and abuelas is the best reward. 

To touch a little on this particular eye care team, I must say that I think they’re all amazing. It’s another perk of these trips- to meet the different people who come together to accomplish great things. The pre-Optometry college students are going to be outstanding doctors. I’m excited for what’s ahead of them. Our youngest OD on the team (who is fluent in Spanish) is a rising star in our field and we are lucky she wants to be involved in mission work. Dr. Brad is not only hilarious and keeps me laughing in the midst of clinic madness, he also has the biggest heart. And of course, the Roma-March family, I will always be thankful our paths crossed in 2016. They are some of the hardest working and most compassionate people I know. 
They say the point of life is to “find your gift and give it away.” I hope that’s what I’m doing. I like to think it is.
Dr. Rita Messing
Michigan USA


We are staying in a boutique style hotel in Lince, Lima. The second day, I took a peek at their kitchen – tiny, functional, and the best part is – without the presence of a snobbish chef. I was inspired and felt that a hot wholesome homestyle dinner would be something the mission members would need. With the help of Marina, we managed to convince the hotel to let me use the kitchen – on two conditions – for one dinner only, and that I start preparation some time in the afternoon.
The day came (two days ago), and I managed to finish all the shopping in the local market by noon but was only able to get access to the kitchen by 3:30pm. I was lucky enough to have Carlos and Jose (or Juan) from the hotel to help me. Then the shocking news came. “no hay agua, Señor.” What do you mean, there’s no water? Took me a while to realize that the water rationing is in effect in the afternoon. My first course is vegetable soup! We managed to try and get the remaining reserved water from the tap, which took about half an hour to fill up the soup pot. What a nightmare! Anyway, the meal turned out fine but the experience was something I will never forget. I think the mission members liked it, as there was not much leftover. There’s always an opportunity to add a bit of spice in our lives. Pardon the pun.

This is my second mission with TWECS. Although I’m a bit more experienced, the emotion and gratification are just as intense. It was also encouraging to see many young and  energetic girls at the school we spent three days at. Hopefully, with better education, they will not grow up as another ama de casa (housewife) with five kids from different men, as we encountered last year in Costa Rica.

In Jicamarca and Canto Grande, I was reminded that, living in our own comfortable surrounding where most people are often overly concerned with what they want and desire, we’ve sometimes forgotten that many people in some other parts of the world can only have very little of what they need. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share some of our blessings that we often take for granted.

Kenson Ho
Vancouver, BC