BISHOP’S FALLS, NL – Inmates at the Bishop’s Fall Correctional Centre are helping those less fortunate improve their quality of life.
Lions International’s Recycle for Sight program collects and recycles used eye glasses to distribute to people in need. Glasses collected in Newfoundland and Labrador are processed on site at the correctional centre in Bishop’s Falls.
“Glasses come in, they’re cleaned, they’re processed,” said Jacqueline Warford, classification officer at the facility. “We take out any garbage (for recycling), and then all glasses are read, bagged and tagged for prescriptions.”
Glasses are shipped to different parts of the world or used locally for various missions and clinics in the province, she said.
“It gives (inmates) a sense of pride or a way to give back.”
By the numbers
Patients assisted in Haiti during 2017 mission trip: 825
Glasses dispensed in Nicaragua during 2018 mission trip: 972
Pairs of glasses processed in Bishop's Falls Correctional Centre: 126,510
Total number of mission trips in the last 30 months: 5
Source: Jaqueline Warford and Brad Moss
The program, which started in April 2016, has processed 126,510 pairs of glasses so far. Two inmates are currently committed to the program, and as inmates are discharged or released, others are trained to process the glasses.
“They devote whatever time they want,” said Warford. “It’s a volunteer thing. It gives them something to occupy their time and skills in organization.”
Warford had an opportunity to see the impact of their work first hand when she travelled to Haiti in fall 2017, where more than 840 patients were seen and over 500 pairs of glasses dispersed.
“It’s truly amazing, to see something that’s viewed as garbage to someone, to see the process from that point to us,” she said. “Cleaning, making sure (glasses) can be used for someone else, and then seeing them on the eyes of someone who’s going to benefit for the next four or five years – it’s truly an amazing experience.”
Brad Moss, Lions Club chair of sight conservation and work with the blind, has been on five foreign missions, two specifically in Nicaragua.
“I got involved by matter of happenstance,” he said. “I inherited a stock pile of eye glasses and wasn’t quite sure what I could do with them because we had no way of getting them off the island at the time.”
Lions Club members collected the glasses province wide and the heap grew to over 30,000 pairs.
Along with the Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre, Moss said Team Broken Earth, a volunteer driven medical relief effort, was also helpful.
“They ended up asking me to go and run one of these clinics,” said Moss. “And it was very successful, so we’ve done five trips in the last 30 months and three local clinics as well for marginalized citizens.”
Moss spoke about the success of the most recent mission to Nicaragua.
“We broke all previous records for patients seen,” Moss said. “We saw 974 citizens (mostly elderly). They required comprehensive eye tests and most of them had never had one in their lives. To take a guy that’s 70, and make him see like he’s 20, it comes as quite a shock to some people.”
The youngest patient helped in Nicaragua was just six months old.
“It’s transformational for a lot of these people,” Moss said. “They’re quite appreciative, they want to know when you’re coming back. People tear up and well up when they can see their family member or their loved one for the first time properly in decades. It’s quite emotional.”
The next mission is in the planning stages and will be to Port au Prince, Haiti this September with the hopeful team comprising of doctors, nurses, specialists and surgeons.