Friday, December 8, 2023

A Visionary Trip to Tonga, Giving the Gift of Sight

 "Malo, Malo 'Aupito!" he said with a smile, adjusting his new glasses and looking around, taking in the details of things he had previously been missing.

Witnessing many individuals walk away with both new glasses and big smiles, we aimed to make a small impact during our cruising journey by hosting our first eyeglass clinic/giveaway in Tonga. If you followed our GoFundMe campaign, you know that it was instrumental in acquiring the necessary equipment. Here's how our inaugural giveaway unfolded.

We spread the word through a Facebook notice: 

Yachts giving back to Vava'u, Tonga. No cost distance and reading glasses
SY Rhapsody Free clinic at Cafe Tropicana Saturday 7th October 9am till 1pm
Glasses are FREE and takes under 10 minutes, not nzd250. Complex scripts can't be handled. 

You do not need an appointment or purchase anything from the Cafe to attend the clinic.

SY Rhapsody paying it forward!

This, and word of mouth were the only advertising that we did, so Saturday morning at about 7:30 we packed up our supplies and headed to Cafe Tropicana.  We had no idea how many people would show up. Would it be 2, or 50? We wanted to have time to set up and be prepared before our 9 AM designated starting time. Greg Just, the owner/operator of Cafe Tropicana allowed us to take over most of his Cafe, assisted with the advertising and assigned one of his workers to help us throughout the day. His generosity was invaluable. 

We walked up to the Cafe, and there were already 20 people waiting outside the door. Greg laughed and said that it was very typical of Tongans, they will go early so they can be first in line.

Beginning to set up our area we had to figure out how the flow of people would work. The following is a list of the steps we went through:

1) Initial check on the eye chart as they see now.
2) Check the vision using our USee device from Globalvision 2020. The clients adjust the dials until they can read the smaller lines comfortably. 

3) Have the client choose a frame (black or brown) and pop the lenses into the frame.
4) Recheck the vision and make adjustments. 
5) Check the vision for reading glasses.
6) Make sure the client has all their goodies.
7) Greet the next client and start again. 

Since this was our first clinic there was a learning curve. Figuring out the flow of the people, figuring out how long to spend with each client, figuring out how to communicate with those with limited English, figuring out the cultural differences,  are they really seeing better? Or just saying what they think we want to hear? 

We had planned to hold the clinic from 9-1. In actuality we started before 9 and worked non-stop until the Cafe closed at 5. Even then we did not see everyone who showed up and people asked if we would please come back the next day to get one person who just couldn't make it there by 5, and a few other people who would have liked to come. 

The problem was that we were leaving for Fiji the next day, but we agreed to come in for an hour in the morning, from 8-9,  before we left.

When we arrived in the morning there was a line, almost as long as the one the previous day. We still needed to check out of the country that day so we got right to work to see as many people as we could.

Finally at 1 PM we felt we couldn't stay any longer, we had to pack up and move on. 

We were very glad to help as many people as we did. We saw 54 people, gave out 53 pairs of reading glasses and 36 pairs of prescription glasses. The ages ranged from 13 to 92 and every single one of them expressed gratitude for what we were doing.

There is obviously a need here, and fortunately Greg (the Cafe owner) is working to get his own kits purchased so he can continue to offer the glasses to Tongans. We have moved on, and we are now in Fiji. Unfortunately so far we have spent most of our time in Fiji getting necessary repairs and upkeep done on Rhapsody  as well as dodging cyclones, but we have every intention of heading out to the outer islands and  assisting the vision of the Fijians as well.

Many thanks again to all of you who helped in our GoFundMe campaign. If you'd like to contribute, we are still seeking funds to sustain this undertaking.

Another happy customer! 

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