In 2,000, Dr. Jim Gamble, one of Dr. Nichols’ partners at Columbia Eye Consultants Optometry was approached by a friend who was involved in construction projects at the Aselsi Mission in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. His friend noticed that local folks could not see well enough to read the construction blueprints and very few had glasses. Dr. Gamble started traveling to Guatemala annually to the Aselsi mission to provide vision care. The mission was originally started by an American missionary, John Harvey and his wife Sharon.
By 2010, Dr. Nichols and his partners at Columbia Eye Consultants decided to adopt Dr. Gamble’s missionary effort to Guatemala as a project. They named it KindSight 2020, developed a business model, and started trips in the fall of 2011. They also started launching mission trips for optometry students and the first trip was made by students at the Rosenberg School of Optometry in October 2015.
Today, they conduct four trips annually, the clinic has two fully equipped exam lanes in a permanently housed clinic, and also conducts on site outpatient cataract surgeries.
The key partners include Drs. Jim Gamble, Jeff Gamble, Mike Nichols, and Chris DeRose, their grateful patients in Guatemala and several staff at the eye clinic including Lety Cruz who is their eye clinic coordinator in Guatemala.
Dr. Gamble’s original intent was to train local Guatemalans to provide vision screenings and optical dispensing services as an ongoing service, with episodic doctor visits to care for more difficult cases. Dr. Nichols and his team currently support about four visits per year. The KindSight2020 program is funded through Columbia Eye Consultants optical dispensary production, where they donate $7 for every pair of spectacles dispensed to the program. These funds are then used to pay for essentially all the costs associated with the eye team trips and to buy equipment and supplies. They also accept charitable donations through a nonprofit organization, Foundation for Higher Good.
The team has a collective desire to provide a very indigent and needy population continued access to modern day optometric care at no cost to them. As part of this endeavor they hope to allow for follow up care for chronic ocular conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and advanced ocular surface disease.
They are also exploring options to include other practices as partners in the project and to grow to additional sites. However, there are significant local infrastructure and staff issues that need to be addressed for future growth – space needs, local support personnel for on-site visits, translators, meals, and lodging – for example.
To learn more, watch these videos: