We were fortunate enough to have pre-optometry students, optometry students, optometry assistants/opticians, and medical students serve with us locally and internationally. See what they are saying about their mission trip experiences.
Pre-Optometry Student, UC Berkeley
Central Valley May 2018
My experience serving with See the Lord had an incredible impact on my life. I served on a short term missions trip to the Central Valley in California. We saw around 60 patients each day and every patient that needed glasses was given one. It was a privilege to be able to help those in need and to see patients faces light up when their sight was restored. This trip not only reinforced my passion for optometry and helping others but it also reminded me that I can do anything through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Any of the times I doubted myself or my abilities on the trip I was reminded of the strength and power of my God. Serving with See the Lord showed me how many people are in need of help and that through the strength of God I can be a light to these people. I look forward to the chance to serve with See the Lord again in the near future.
Honduras March 2017
“We Always Have Room for One More.” This is Sister Maria Rosa Leggol’s motto at “Sociedad Amigos de los Niños (SAN)” in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. And it quickly became the motto in March 2017 for the small but mighty “See The Lord (STL)” team visiting Central America for the first time.
I visited SAN on my very first mission trip in February 2015. Three short months later, God put STL in my path when I responded to a request for Spanish translators for an STL eye clinic in Central California.
My heart was overwhelmingly moved by the compassion and dedication of the doctors so I asked about the STL mission to other countries. While Taiwan is a regular stop for STL, Central America was uncharted territory. After a brief discussion with Dr. Kelly Kao and some follow-up emails, detailed mission planning for Honduras began.
The trip was originally scheduled for March 2016 but was wisely postponed due to the spread and growing concerns of the Zika Virus in the area we had planned to visit. The postponement served as a lesson in faith as I continually prayed that if this mission trip was truly God’s will, He would gather the right team… at the right time. For we all know that God’s timing is ALWAYS right… in spite of us wanting things to happen on our time.
And did God ever respond… in the most AWESOME way possible!!
Although we had been to hands-on training on how to setup the clinic and take measurements, you never know what will be encountered when boots land on the ground, especially when it involves a different language with an extended team in Honduras only known thru email.
It wasn’t long before we realized that sometimes things are lost in translation. For instance, when our team would begin seeing patients… which ended up being about 4 hours after touching down in Tegucigalpa after an overnight flight and a harrowing trip to the local box store to get some remaining supplies. Going into the trip, we knew that there was a serious need for quality eye care, especially in the rural areas such as Nuevo Paraiso (also visited by the STL team), but we were still surprised to see the 100+ people that had been in line since 4am to be blessed enough to get a number for the 40 or so daily slots.
And just when we thought we were done for the day, there always seemed to be one more patient who didn’t receive a number but was asking to be seen anyhow…
My favorite part of the trip was doing the intake for the 283 patients we eventually examined. That was when I realized that my talent was speaking Spanish (my first language… I used to think it was engineering)!! Our patients ranged in age from toddlers to the young at heart… from all walks of life with varying visual-related conditions… many of whom had never had an opportunity to be examined by an eye specialist prior to the STL visit. These were the patients that I most enjoyed telling that it was a pleasure for STL to be the first to exam them… and then watching the team show them!!
The STL goal is also for the volunteers to have an eye-opening experience and, for me, this trip was way more of a blessing than I could ever have imagined!! While inspired by the people we encountered and their gratitude, I was most inspired by my God-sent team members… not only from STL but also the SAN staff who helped us both in Tegucigalpa as well as Nuevo Paraiso!!
I had initially prayed that the STL team might be bigger but, in hindsight, this team was THE PERFECT size at the perfect time to lay a solid foundation for future STL visits!! I was continuously impressed at how well this team worked together in a quite small hospital exam room with just enough space to handle 3 (but sometimes up to 6) patients comfortably… without ever physically bumping into each other!!
I am so thankful and most appreciative for having had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Vivien, who (we were told by the SAN staff) provided the most thorough eye exam that rural area had ever seen in spite of how tired she was; and my best friend Michelle who stepped completely above her faith zone to do something she had never done to discover a talent she didn’t know she had!! Nine months after our trip I am still amazed at seeing Michelle’s faith continue to grow as this trip was truly life-changing for her as well as for myself!!
Honduras was my third volunteer effort with STL and I look forward to many more!! As an eye-glass wearer, I do not take my vision for granted so I am always looking for new opportunities to share the STL mission. Upon my return from my second trip to Honduras, I had a new opportunity in my Inbox to move to Saint Louis (STL)… that was the second time in a row that happened to me which only reinforced that God truly is faithful to those who are faithful to Him!! So when I volunteered to be a Spanish translator at a health clinic here in STL, I talked with the clinic coordinator about why vision services were not being offered. After a brief discussion with Dr. Kelly Kao over an email, detailed mission planning for STL will soon begin….
Dovi Mae Patino
3rd Year Pre-Optometry Student, UC Berkeley
Taiwan December 2012
It’s been almost a year now since I participated in the optometric mission trip with Kelly and the rest of the team, but I am constantly reminded about the beautiful time we shared in Taiwan. It was an amazing experience and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to intersect my faith and health care in a place where people were in great need of service. I had initially believed that optometry and Catholicism were two drastically different aspects of my life, but the trip taught me how to combine the two so that I could work with Him and through Him to share His light. Before the trip, I wasn’t accustomed to sharing my faith with people outside of my family so it was very refreshing to be around those who spoke openly and confidently about theirs. Something very special to me was that I was able to come into contact with other Filipinos while in Taiwan. I remember my anxiety in the beginning about not feeling welcome since I was visiting a foreign country and how the language barrier might be too much of a hindrance, but the Lord guided my work and allowed me to connect with people even when words did not. Witnessing so many of my own people serving in the name of God reminded me that I was never far from home. See the Lord permitted me to gain a better understanding of health conditions in other parts of the world and gave me a chance to be a better steward of God’s grace. For all that I will be forever grateful. I can only hope to one-day touch lives the same way I was touched by this trip.
Optometric Assistant/Optician, East Bay, CA
Taiwan December 2012
Whether you are an eye care health professional, a student considering a career in the health care field, or just a curious traveler, See the Lord (STL) is an organization that can provide a great opportunity for anyone wanting to help others and explore a different part of the world. The doctors involved are very dedicated and the passion from the leaders of the organization can be witnessed from your initial contact with them.
As I reflect on my experience of being part of the inaugural team, I realized that I gained new perspectives about my life. My two-week adventure was filled with gratifying missionary work, enlightening cultural immersion, and valuable time of spiritual re-evaluation. Most importantly, the trip allowed me to envision a new path for my future, something that would not have happened on my own or with any other organization.
There is a unique personal touch that separates STL from other organizations. As part of the STL team, you are not seen as just volunteer assisting under a supervisor. By serving intimately with all members of the organization from beginning to the end, close bonds and relationships are formed. The experience comes with fun-filled memories, but you will also gain a family. As STL continues to grow to reach more people in direct need of vision care, I can only hope more people will join this wonderful family that will always be part of me, wherever I am in life.
1st year Optometry Student, School of Optometry of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico
Taiwan March 2012
From watching many episodes of Taiwanese dramas, I imagined Taiwan as a luxurious place and well-developed country. Although I had a general idea of underdeveloped places in Taiwan, I did not know the extent of the underserved population until I arrived.
Overall there was a lot of traveling involved. We never stayed overnight in the same place twice, which meant unloading and packing constantly our personal items and an extra luggage for clinic supplies. We were a mobile optometry van.
I loved the fact that our STL group was small because we developed a closeness with each other. We were always well-taken care of by Dr. Kelly Kao, who acted like a mother to us along the way. She was always asking us how we were doing physically and mentally. Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed or I didn’t understand something, she would encourage us to ask questions, reflect, and not be afraid to make mistakes. I also gained strength from God because each time we went to church, did daily prayers, shared our discussions and reflections with each other, I felt the power of God lifting up my spirit.
Since our trip was during Holy Week, I was often reminded everyday of Jesus’s love and service to his disciples, to Mary, and his love for all people. Therefore, I was able to handle whatever physical or mental exhaustion that occurred during clinic and travel days.
The best reward that I gained from the trip was during clinic days. I saw that there was a great need for us since the access to eye care is not as convenient as walking into a Walgreens and buying a pair of readers. The villagers would have to drive three hours away to a hospital and even if they did, they might not have enough money. Most of the time they didn’t even realize they needed eye care. A lot of eye diseases of the seniors are asymptomatic so without having an eye exam every year, their eye disease (like glaucoma) could worsen. Therefore, the reward of the trip was being able to help the villagers and the school children improve their quality of life through vision care. Even though my role was very simple in terms of taking visual acuity, dispensing, assisting Dr. Kelly Kao with trial frame refraction, doing retinoscopy, and etc. I felt very important and much appreciated by the villagers, the church’s staff members, and my team.
Personally for me, STL was the perfect trip that combined everything I am passionate about and, in sense, helped me to grow in specific areas of my life. I was able to grow spiritually through the Catholic practices, physically through traveling from clinic to clinic, and emotionally through the interaction with the villagers. After my experience in Taiwan, I realize that I take my home in California, USA for granted. You can never fully understand something until you have experienced it. I encourage ALL pre-optometry students and also health professional students to go on the STL trip. The trip really opened my eyes to Taiwan and the Lord. I hope that ALL of you can experience the things that I did by going on STL. God Bless.
4th year Pre-Optometry Student, UC Berkeley
Taiwan March 2013
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.
1st year Medical Student, American University of the Caribbean
Taiwan March 2013
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.
Read about the experiences from our wonderful optometrists. Their voluntary hours were a blessing during our local and international mission trips. Inspire and lead young optometry students. Help the under-privileged receive better eyesight. Come volunteer with us and make a difference.
Vivien Tse, OD
Honduras March 2017
Patients served: 283
Days of service: 7
Number of team members: 3
It was an amazing opportunity to examine many patients in Honduras through the help of Sociedad Amigos de los Ninos (SAN) organization and STL. During our week there, we saw patients at two locations: El Paraiso and Tegucigalpa. We were in Honduras for 8 days, worked in the clinic for 7 days and saw 283 patients. I was part of a small team of 3 people (one optometrist and 2 volunteers) but we did our best to make a huge impact in their community. As a team, we worked very well together and synchronized our duties instantly. Once we landed into Honduras, we were asked to see patients right away due to the high demand in the area. Many days in the clinic turned into late nights because it was difficult to turn any patients away. Many patients had never gotten their eyes checked before and they desperately needed a simple pair of glasses and someone to update them on their eye conditions. The patients were very grateful for the services. They brought us food when we were busy and some stayed until the end of the night to make sure we went home to sleep. Going to Honduras last year was one of the best decisions I made in 2017 and I hope to return again soon in the near future. The size of this team was small; however it does not correlate with the amount of passion and care surrounding us.
Eve Yeh, OD
M. Optom., University of New South Wales, Class 2004
Taiwan June 2013
Patients served: 359
Days of service: 8
Prescription glasses prescribed: 136
Get out of your comfort zone and serve in God’s kingdom! Take courage and embrace the experience of serving God’s children in outreach communities as we are blessed with the ability to give.
See the Lord invites you to physically give sight to under-privileged communities in Asia where vision and healthcare services are limited. Personally I had my prayers answered – the Lord chose me to work alongside Kelly and our team to go to southern Taiwan in June.
We may take our access to vision services for granted, but those in remote townships often bear their neglect in silence without much hope. Many mountain villagers, field workers and elderly suffer from visual impairments and diseases that impact their independence and quality of life. It is not uncommon for children in these rural places to be without parents to care for them because adults usually make a living by working in the city. As a health care professional, you are likely providing the first eye exam for these villagers and your expertise easily brings about immediate results. The teams of See the Lord restore and protect eyesight with various means, namely providing prescription glasses, sunglasses and associated health management. Referrals are made so that those with eye conditions and diseases can seek necessary medical treatments. The joy and gratification is indescribable when you see your patients’ smiling faces and beaming eyes after you have “turned on the lights” by restoring their vision.
In addition to providing health care, we lean on God’s words through daily devotions for wisdom and strength to support one another. God opens our eyes and hearts to people in need, so that we can exercise respect, empathy and compassion. Taking part to serve in God’s presence fills our hearts with joy and hope.