By Christie Walker
Being in the optical industry means you are acutely aware of the importance of vision. But unfortunately, this is not an obvious problem to many people outside the industry. With 400 to 700 million people walking around with uncorrected vision problems, you’d think someone would be doing something. Well, somebody is. For one optical lab owner, the road to making a difference started at a Vision Council presentation on Giving Back and ended in Cuauhtemoc City, Mexico.

Mike Francesconi, of Katz and Klein, Sacramento, Calif., plus four ODs and five techs fit 920 patients with glasses—from people in their late 80s to small children—in only two days. A typical day started at 7:30 am and went until 6pm with a half hour for lunch and no breaks.

“We saw a high number of cataract patients, pterygiums, and other patients with a variety of eye disorders including a high percentage of diabetic patients, patients that had Lasik surgery that was unsuccessful and children that couldn’t see the caulk board in school,” explained Francesconi.

This was the first time Francesconi had participated in a project of this nature. One of Katz and Klein’s customer had been going to Mexico and fitting glasses on a regular basis. When Mike told him how impressed he was by this work, the customer offered to bring him along on the next trip. The organization, Lions in Sight, of California and Nevada, were organizing the trip so to qualify to go, Mike had to become a member of the Lions Club. The trip took place from August 19th through the 22nd in 2010 with two full working days on the 20th and 21st.

“I was very surprised to see how poor the people of this city were and how health care was nonexistent there. The best part was seeing the expressions on the patient’s faces when we put glasses on them and they could see for the first time. It was very emotional to say the least,” said Francesconi. “This experience made me realize how fortunate we are to live in the United States. We take so much for granted. I received so much more than I gave. The people were so grateful. Words can’t describe it.”

Once back from the trip, Francesconi shared his experience with the employees at Katz and Klein, by showing them a slide show that was created from photos taken during the program. The employees were moved and couldn’t believe the amount of patients that the team had seen and fitted with glasses in two days.

As a result of this project, Katz and Klein signed up to make hundreds of pairs of glasses for the Lions organization for children. This is a new project that will get underway in 2011.

“We are in the business of giving people vision. There are people all over the world who get up everyday and have no idea how their world can change by just volunteering a little bit of their time in helping people see. You don’t have to go on a mission to help this cause. Volunteer your employees or your time in making or providing lenses for all different organizations such as the one that I belong to, Lions in Sight,’ urged Francesconi.

Doctor Vic Connors of Optometry Giving Sight agrees. “If you are there trying, you are making a difference. It’s all good. It’s really transforming two lives: the person being helped and the person doing the helping.”


Labtalk June 2020