So you’ve decided to make your desire to help into reality. How exciting!
And...a bit overwhelming too. As you prepare for your mission trip, here are some insightful tips that can help ensure your trip is a success.
We've also put together a handy checklist so you remember to bring some essential items. You can download it here (no email or opt-in required).
Where to Start
Maybe you lost your glasses for a day and began to wonder what it would be like to live without corrective vision.
Or, perhaps you stumbled across an article about eye care missions while ordering a pair of sunglasses online.
Something ignited your interest, and now it’s time to dig deeper to explore how you can make a difference.
Some awesome options include:
Recently, the opportunity to pursue education in ophthalmology in an overseas setting has become more possible through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. You’ll find detailed information on their website.
Volunteering through a charity organization - Many non-profit charitable organizations invite volunteers to participate in eye care mission trips.
The Himalayan Cataract Project, Eye Care America, and Orbis International are some of the most well-known but there are scores of others you’ll find online as well. A number of them allow for both professionals and laymen to take part.
Linking up with an eye care fellowship that is available through an academic institution is an optimal way to serve and to get your education. There are 5 major fellowships that offer this service but you can also find other smaller-scaled ones as well.
Faith-based mission trips are quite popular in churches and other religious organizations. The purpose of such groups is usually two-fold - to spread the gospel and to provide eye-care services like gifting glasses and sunglasses, offering eye exams, and/or making other eye corrections possible. Check with your local church or reach out to evangelistic groups online and you’ll most likely find information about a mission trip you can take part in.
If you have the financial means, organizing your own eye care mission trip is optimal in some ways because you’ll be able to have more input as the how everything is carried out. An independent trip requires a lot of organizing and coordinating though, from start to finish. It also takes a good bit of money. But if it’s within reach, it’s a valiant vision indeed.
We've also put together a list of the top eye care non-profits & organizations.
Envision the Vision: Thinking it All Through
Once you’ve figured out what group you’ll be going with (or what group you’ll be organizing yourself), but long before you actually pack your bags and take off on your trip, you’ll want to lay the foundation of your mission. Even if your plans are already underway, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve covered all your ground.
Preparations to Make Before the Trip
1. Consider the source. It’s wise to not only think about where you want to go and what your goals are once you get there, but also take into consideration where you will have the greatest impact. You’ll get much further in a country that welcomes you verses somewhere you are just wanting to visit. Seeds that fall on fertile soil produce the best results.
2. Mentoring matters. Especially during your first few trips, having a mentor alongside you is very helpful. Choose someone who has been on an eye care mission before or who is familiar with the country you are going to, or, preferably...both. Be open to their suggestions even if they are different from your own thoughts. Gleaning on their personal past experience is priceless.
3. Do your homework. The more you can learn about the place you’ll be going and the people you’ll be helping, the better. Check out the country, the region, the history, the religions, and the culture too. Doing so will make the trip more meaningful and will heighten your anticipation of the trip too.
4. Learn the lingo. Of course speaking the language fluently isn’t a requirement but it certainly won’t hurt to learn a few key phrases at least.You may plan on having an interpreter but there are times he or she may not be with you. Plus, it’s a nice gesture to talk one-on-one with the people when you can, even if it’s just a word or two.
5. Show your respect. When you are researching the area you’ll be going to, pay special attention to their customs. Respecting the local customs is not only polite, it’s imperative. You won’t get far touching the lives of people who consider you rude.
6. Expect the unexpected. When preparing for your journey and while on it, expecting the unexpected will help prevent you from being caught totally off-guard. Going over some of the “what-ifs” is wise.
What will you do if the weather takes a big turn? Some countries are known for their hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. What actions will you take if the people you are going to help are not receptive?
Keep in mind that some have never seen or heard of glasses so they may be frightened by them and by you. As they say, “Prepare for the worst and expect the best.”
7. Passport. When going to have it made it’s a good idea to double check with the agency where you are attaining it from. Often times, there are certain hours passports are handled. Sometimes even though a specific spot advertises they offer the service, they don’t anymore. Time runs out quickly so be sure you make the proper arrangements and secure it with plenty of time to spare. Don’t forget to actually bring it along with you.You won’t get very far without it.
8. Immunizations. Immunizations are required when you visit some foreign countries. Some are recommended but optional. You can find out the status of vaccines in the country you are going to online or through your health care specialist.
9. Diseases and precautions. In addition to vaccines, there are diseases that are common to certain countries that you should be aware of and take precautions against. For instance, in areas where malaria is widespread, you’ll want to ensure you bring mosquito repellent and protective clothing and bedding nets.
Packing Up - What to Bring
10. Clothing and hygiene supplies. You’ll most likely be limited to what size of bag you can take so you’ll want to make the most of the space allowed. Take into consideration the weather that’s projected but bring some layers in case it changes. Small size toiletries are optimal to save space.Be sure to check with the airlines or other transportation modes to view their regulations.
11. Water. Be careful about drinking tap water! Even in countries where the water is safe to drink, it most likely contains substances you are not accustomed to having. It’s a good idea to bring your own bottled water. To decide how much to bring, find out if bottled water will be available for sale at your destination. You can also buy water purification tablets.
12. Items to Distribute. You might be shocked to hear the stories of those who went on missions trips to share specific items but forgot their supplies. It’s easy to get so busy and pumped up that you forget one of the most important things of all...your goods. If your trip is an eye care mission, don’t forget to bring to actually bring the eye wear you intend to give. If you are handing out brochures or Bibles, don’t forget to pack them too.
13. Picture It! Remember to bring along a camera and/or video camera. Even if you won’t have cell phone service at the destination, it’s a good idea to have it with you for the journey there are back. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a journal and pen so you can jot down your experiences each day.
Things to Be Prepared for During the Trip
14. Be polite. Be kind to everyone. There will be times that may get chaotic or stressful but make a conscious effort to be nice regardless. You are representing your country and perhaps even a religion or school.
15. Be calm, cool, and patient. Mission trips aren’t always a vacation. Sure, you’re in a foreign land, seeing new sights, and meeting new people, but you are there to work and to give. It will be overwhelming at times. You may feel like losing your patience. But don’t. Remember that all eyes are upon you.
16. Seize the days. Embrace every moment of your journey. Hold on to the memories with your heart. Freeze frame those treasured times and capture the life-changing learning experience.
17. Make memos of memories. Be sure to take photographs, videos, write in your journal and bring back some souvenirs. It is easy to think you won’t forget what the place looked like, what the people sounded like, and what you did each day but over the years, it’s nice to have some reminders.
Bonus: Helpful Hints from the Pros - How To Choose The Right Reading Glasses To Bring
There’s nothing like the gift of sight.
Whether the focus of your mission trip is eye care, or not, giving reading glasses to people in need is a practical and pleasing present to bring along. Here are some pro tips on obtaining wholesale reading glasses:
18. When organizing a collection of reading glasses to bring, purchase by single power (diopters) so you can best serve the individual needs of the people.
20. An assorted variety of reading glass mixes such as this one, is an awesome option that’s quite popular to take on mission trips. The boxes come in 36 piece sets and are conveniently separated into “weak, medium and strong”. You’ll get a wide selection of styles and functional packaging at a low cost.
21. Make your purchase well in advance. Allow for the shipping and handling time too. Once they’ve arrived and you’ve looked the order over to make sure all is well, you can go ahead and pack them so you’ll one more step closer to being ready to roll.
We Would Love to be a Part of Your Journey
If you are planning an eye care mission trip or if you’d like to include giving eye wear on another type of mission trip, we invite you to give us a call at: 323-589-7828 ext 114.
We’d love you hear your thoughts and needs before the trip. One of our friendly and knowledgeable account managers would be happy to guide you through the process, step by step, to help make sure bringing your vision to life is a complete success.