Since 1975 AMIGOS Eye Care, an organization within Pacific University’s College of Optometry has provided optometric care to more than 100,000 people around the world. For most of these patients, it was their first time receiving such care and if not for AMIGOS, they would have gone all their lives without it.
AMIGOS, a group of students and doctors from Pacific’s College Optometry, goes on eight trips every year to countries all over the world and provides eyecare to people who really need it.
“On our international trips, the amount of ocular disease we see is unbelievable,” Monica Baradi, president of AMIGOS said.
Three times each year, AMIGOS sends out multiple groups of doctors and students to perform eye exams, provide treatment and fix glasses for people in different parts of the world.
“Some of the doctors have been going on these trips for 20 plus years, to the same country so they have a really good rapport with the in-country contacts,” Baradi said.
AMIGOS is a chapter of a larger organization of optometry students and doctors in the U.S. and Canada called Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH). AMIGOS is Pacific’s chapter of VOSH and also the oldest of all the chapters.
What started as a small group of students and doctors traveling to Central America has grown into a much larger organization with an even greater scope. Since 1975, AMIGOS has helped people in 22 countries in Asia, South and Central America and Africa.
“We’re not just giving out glasses, we do full medical exams now,” Baradi said. “We’re slowly building the supply of equipment we have to take down.”
Much of the equipment AMIGOS uses on their trip is given to them by sponsors.
To be able to go on eight trips each year, AMIGOS does a lot of fundraising and utilizes a lot of grant money and sponsorships from different eye companies and lens companies Baradi said. They also take in a lot of donated glasses.
Students have to pay their own way for the trips, but much of the money AMIGOS raises goes towards helping students cover those travel costs. AMIGOS puts on many different fundraising events throughout the year, but its biggest is the annual Eyeball.
The Eyeball, a formal dinner and auction, brought in $22,000 last year.
In addition to its eight international trips every year, AMIGOS works with other groups in the College of Optometry to send students on a trip to rural regions of Oregon every spring break.
Students and doctors take Pacific’s Eye Van to far-flung parts of Oregon, where very few people have easy access to optometric care.
“It’s very similar to what we do internationally,” Baradi said. “We just wanted to start doing it in Oregon too.”
According to Baradi, one of the best parts of being a part of AMIGOS, besides the obvious answers of visiting new places and helping people who need it, is that it reminds her why she started studying optometry.
“In the first few years of school, before you get to see patients you can get bogged down in the all the information that’s been crammed into your brain and then on the trip, it was a week of just patient care and dealing with patients who really needed help,” Baradi said. “After spring break, I came back to school way more ready to learn because I had seen what actual impact this has on the world.”