Large, new eyeglasses collection to bring precious gift of vision
to developing countries
Richmond, BC September 2nd, 2020 -- A young man in Ethiopia, who struggled over many years to
read and write, and yearned for an education, had been regarded as stupid and forced out of school at
grade two, because he was blind. He put on eyeglasses for the first time and, as a new world opened
up for him, said as a plea, now, “How can I learn?” His life might have been so much more fulfilling if
he had eyeglasses when he was a child.
The second hand eyeglasses and professional help came to this man half way around the world thanks
to the Third World Eye Care Society (TWECS), based in Burnaby, BC, founded by Optometrist Dr.
Marina Roma-March.
While the 50 Rotary clubs of District 5040 ( had to cancel their late April annual
conference in Vancouver because of pandemic restrictions, they continued with their pledge to raise
2020 used eyeglasses for TWECS by the time of the “2020 Vision Conference”. From Greater
Vancouver up the coast to Prince Rupert, the Rotary clubs and eight Rotaract clubs (young
professionals and post-secondary students of age 18 to 30) rallied and far exceeded their goal with a
final collection of 5,294 eyeglasses.
Rotarian and President of the Richmond Sunrise Club, Debbie Samsom, championed this district wide
project on a local level here in Richmond. She had this to say about the project, “I am overwhelmed
and delighted with the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by our club members in making Vision
2020 a success. We began collecting eyeglasses in June 2019, and diligently continued until March
2020. Special thanks to one of our members (Belinda Boyd) for spearheading a collection at Richmond
Hospital. It is initiatives such as this that make me proud to be a Rotarian”.
Thanks to Bandstra Transportation, which shipped collections from northern Rotary clubs to their
Richmond terminal free of charge, the TWECS warehouse in Burnaby now has the entire collection.
There the eyeglasses are sorted for reading or distance focus. Next, a local prison, with equipment
loaned by TWECS, determines the magnification strength of each pair, labels and packages it for return
Dr. Roma-March, a Rotarian herself, will be taking the collected eyeglasses on her team’s next mission
to a developing country, where, because of poverty or lack of availability of eye care services,
individuals are unable to obtain eyeglasses and primary eye care. Over 25 years TWECS has led
missions to countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Malawi, Nepal and the Philippines.
Dr. Roma-March says: “As our teams travel to the corners of the world we come face to face with
thousands of children whose bright futures were brought to a standstill, stopped dead by poor vision,
bound at home unable to read. It is heartbreaking to meet so many children whose lives have been
crippled with missed opportunities for education and employment because of the lack of eyeglasses.
We are so grateful to our Rotary District 5040 clubs and their communities for this recent donation of
used eyeglasses.”
Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million neighbours, friends, leaders, and problem solvers
who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our
communities, and in ourselves. Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. Rotaract
clubs bring together people ages 18 and older to exchange ideas with leaders in the community,
develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service.
Photo #1: Flanking Third World Eye Care Society President, Optometrist Dr. Marina Roma-May, are Rotary District
5040 conference 2020 chair Tom Smith (left) and District Governor 2019-20 Bala Naidoo (right) in front of
collection boxes which resulted in 5,294 used eyeglasses from 50 Rotary clubs and their communities of BC
Photo #2: Third World Eye Care Society President, Optometrist Dr. Marina Roma-May, with a girl in a small town
in the foothills of the Andes of Peru, with a big grin because her new glasses, bringing the gift of vision, were in
her favourite colour.

Photo #3: A Third World Eye Care Society mission completed vision screening of the 500 students at an
elementary school of Tacloban, in the Philippines, in January 2014, two months after the country’s deadliest
typhoon had killed over 8,000 people, including eight teachers at the school.