As I sit here on this cool and somewhat cloudy Saturday morning in February, I'm reflective and grateful. These past 6 months have been a blur. School days, sports, holidays, projects, friends, a closing conference, and decisions surrounded me and still do. I can genuinely say that my time here has gone by in the blink of an eye. There have been many ups and downs, obstacles and accomplishments, tears and laughter but most of all there have been memories.
The purpose of a Peace Corps Volunteer is not, however, to solely improve his/her community but to also improve the lives of others, and in turn improve their own life. I can say with confidence that I have improved the life of at least one person while here in Guyana and can only hope that I've touched the lives of others the way they have touched mine. This being said, I have had the unique opportunity to be involved with a branch of Lion's Club and their impacting project of a free community-based eye clinic. Yes, I said free. Of course we all know if we paid attention in high school economics that there is "no free lunch" meaning simply that even if YOU get a free lunch, someone somewhere else has paid for the bag you're eating it from, or the farmer has paid to grow the items inside the sandwich you're munching on; in essence, even if you get it for free, it's not free for someone else who has provided it to you. But, that's not the point...I digress.
Every year (for at least the past 2 years that I know of, maybe more before I came) a group of Lion's Club members and some of their friends and/or colleagues come en masse from Canada (in collaboration with the Lion's Club members of Guyana) to a part of Guyana (for security and safety reasons, this location information is confidential) and proceed to set up and provide free eye exams, free reading and/or prescription spectacles, free diabetes and blood pressure (and more) check-ups, and overall a free chance to see without any strings attached. The first time I had the honor of engaging in this week-long activity was in November of 2009. I'll admit I was a little hesitant to spend a week with a bunch of Canadian doctors that I did not know, but the second I was introduced to one I knew in an instant that these extraordinary people were more than just doctors.
The more I got to know and work with these group of angels, the more I realized that they were doing what I was trying to accomplish in two years in just one week. I admired and was in awe of these incredible people. The second time they came, February of 2010, I did not get the chance to work alongside them but rather reached up with them following their clinic. We had still kept in contact and seeing them again made me confirm that our friendship was unique and heartfelt. This year, they came again, with more people in their team than ever before. Although I couldn't have worked with them the entire week they came, working with them for even a couple of days was satisfying for me. But the best part of working with them, besides the selfish reasons of spending time with good friends, is seeing the impact they make on so many lives in that one week.
This time around, their clinic was able to improve 1300+ lives and their ability to see. This is no small task my friends, as all members worked from early morning hours till late afternoon not to mention the short lunch breaks they took. Alongside them, the Lion's members from Guyana helped making communications, logistics, companionship, and more, possible for this group of hard working individuals. In the end, even after they go, people will be talking about the "white doctors" that came and helped them see again; the friendly faces and moments of genuine TLC they received will imprint on all the persons involved with these projects.
For me to have even gotten the opportunity to assist and spend time amongst these people is a privilege for me. The friends I get to keep, the memories, and the experience all add up to one greater purpose...making a difference.