Optometrist heads to Philippines to provide eye care
Dr. Allan Jones will be down there March 7-21
Tuesday, Mar 08, 2016 10:15 am
DR. ALLAN JONES
Last week, due to an unfortunate mistake, this story was not published, although the headline for it did run. So this week we’re running the correct story with the correct headline. Our apologies for the mistake.
An Olds optometrist is heading down to the Philippines March 7-21 to provide eye care for residents there.
He will be working under the auspices of Canadian Vision Care, a charity that provides eye care internationally.
Initially at least, Dr. Allan Jones of the Olds Eyecare Clinic will be working in the “Eye Train,” a train car that has been converted into an eye clinic, open seven days a week.
Jones has been overseas several times, providing eye care in Third World countries, including the Philippines.
“They have really no different problems than we have, it’s just that they can’t get them treated. So here if you get a cataract, you go to the office and go to the doctor’s and get a cataract operation. There, they can’t afford a cataract operation,” he says.
The need for proper eye care throughout the world is massive, Jones says.
“In the world right now, you have about 650 million people who are functionally blind because all they need is a pair of glasses,” Jones says.
“If you’re a fisherman and you don’t have a magnifier, you can’t fish, fix your nets. It’s a big deal. And for them, they can’t afford it because it might literally be a month’s salary, so they just don’t have it,” he adds.
Previously, doctors working in the Eye Train treated about 70 people a day. Jones anticipates they might treat that many this year as well.
From there, they’ll go to “Smokey Mountain,” a giant landfill where people live.
“These kids live in the dump and they pick garbage; that’s how they make a living. There’s a school set up (there), so we take care of all their vision needs,” he says.
Jones says when they learn where he’s going and what he’s doing, some people think it’s pretty glamorous. Not necessarily.
“People say ‘oh, you’re going to go do this’ and I say, ‘when you give up two weeks of your time where you’re away from your family and you’re not getting paid (it’s a sacrifice),’” he says.
The Eye Train is air conditioned, so conditions there aren’t so bad.
“But in some of the spots, where you’re just in a kind of outdoor thing with a roof on and you’re baking to death, it’s not really a lot of fun that way. I mean, you still do good work, but it’s not a lot of fun,” he says.
Previously, Jones was instrumental in setting up an eye care clinic in Malawi, Africa, donating money to get that clinic built. He was back there this past October to help out again.
“We’ve been going back now, furnishing the clinic with more equipment, teaching. This (past) year was great because we even brought a tech with us who fixes equipment. So he taught the techs there how to fix the equipment,” he says.
“This is a really good one because you have a country of 14, 15 million people that didn’t have one optometrist. Now they’re producing (them),” Jones says.
“But that’s nothing, because the three countries around them don’t have any optometrists, so you have 150 million people with no eye care, basically.”
Last summer, during a ceremony in Columbia, the World Council of Optometry presented Jones with the International Optometrist of the Year award for all his efforts regarding eye care internationally, as well as the fact he has been very involved in the profession.
He was president of the Alberta Association of Optometrists and served on the Alberta College of Optometrists board for about 17 years among other activities on behalf of optometry.
Jones says he felt “pretty special” to receive that award.
“To be recognized by people is kind of neat, but you don’t do it obviously for that reason,” he says. “Most of the people who get these awards are usually academics, and I’m not an academic.”