Health care, especially eye care, is definitely different in Taiwan than in the US. I was surprised by how nearsighted the children were; yet they did not even own a pair of glasses. I wondered how these children could function in daily life when they could barely see the largest shapes on the eye chart? The rural families even believed that using pupil dilation drops daily would be able to cure nearsightedness, when there is no such practice in the US. This is just one of the different types of interesting and unique vision cases I witnessed during the trip. As a pre-optometry student, the mission trip was great exposure to the field of optometry.
I enjoyed the small team because I was able to get a lot more practice and experience, both optometrically and spiritually. I love going to Taiwan to enjoy the culture, as we were able to spent some time in the city (Taipei) and enjoy Taiwanese sights and foods. I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip and this was a good experience.Elaine Oetomo, Taiwan March 2013 Team, 4th year Pre-Optometry Student, UC Berkeley
My mother introduced me to See the Lord and suggested I volunteer on one of the mission trips. I ultimately decided to give it a shot for two reasons: it would give me some clinical experience before I started medical school and I would be able to learn more about the Catholic faith I had grown up in – something I had recently developed an interest in.
Upon arrival to Taiwan, it was obvious to everyone that I was not a native as I struggled with my 50-poind suitcase that was jammed in the turnstile of the Taipei subway system. The train quickly approached, and our group squeezed into the already crowded cabin, all of us carrying supplies plus our own personal belongings. The Taipei city dwellers seemed understanding and rearranged themselves so that there was enough space for us to fit. Before we knew it, we were off to Taipei Main Station to catch a four-hour long train to the eastern Taiwanese city of Hualien. Our mission was to hold optometric clinics at seven different locations, over seven days.
The elementary school children were lined up and seated obediently in the gymnasium where we held the clinic. I looked up from taking down medical histories and there were at least twenty more kids waiting for me. My arm was getting sore from pointing at the seemingly endless array of optotypes (the progressively smaller symbols on the eye exam charts). The fatigue and humidity started to wear me thin, despite the children’s charm and cuteness. I could only imagine what Dr. Kao was feeling since she had to see every single patient individually. My duties of conducting the preliminary tests for the eye exam could be done by the other members of the team as well, as we were all adequately trained prior to the trip. So, we shared these responsibilities and helped each other out when possible. However, the doctor would thoroughly examine each and every patient after we collected the preliminary data.
After seeing all the patients, we packed up the supplies and went to dinner with the local Taiwanese volunteers that were hosting us. As I engulfed the Taiwanese dish that had been set in front of me, I reflected on how happy I was to have this opportunity; to be able to learn more about the Christian duty to love and serve others, meet great people, and explore a different culture. I found myself coming to the conclusion that perhaps my mother was right after all in advising me to join See the Lord on a mission trip.
Edwin Chou, Taiwan March 2013 Team, 1st year Medical Student, American University of the Caribbean