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Attacking Poverty Through Visionary, Compassionate, and Humane Optometry

By Paul Rowe

While on a trip to Lima, Peru, Dr. Joseph Dollak had a vision. The outline to what is known today as Visual Compassion was written down in his personal journal. The rest is history. Partnering with the Salvation Army and the Volunteers of America has helped Visual Compassion positively transform the lives of the formerly incarcerated, addicted, and homeless.

Through these gracious relationships with foundational partners who have hosted laboratories, vision stations, and clinics, Visual Compassion has created InFOCUS University, where students hone classroom and hands-on visual skills to assists the needs of those in difficult situations.

"Our Vision Stations have given rise to 2 fully functioning InFOCUS Vision Clinics open to the public in Houston. The stability and success of the overall Vision Wheel project has encouraged the International arm of the Salvation Army," says Joseph Dollak. "They have funded the startup of a Vision Wheel in their Bethel Clinic located in Fond des Negres, Haiti. The development of a functioning eyeglass edging lab is in the works."

Real example of glasses worn by visiting patient

Dr. Dollak has worked hands-on with people facing difficult situations at a free clinic located inside the Houston Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center. For the past ten years, Dr. Dollak has worked with these individuals through vision exams and career training programs.

"The human eye is a taking instrument, just as the human body is a surviving instrument," says Dr. Dollak. "At Visual Compassion we don't seek to prop up reactive behaviors with miracle tools of optics. As I said, the eye is a taking instrument and prone to self-correction of its weaknesses. But to hide one's weakness is to waste one's strength. The sooner you learn to let go of reactive behaviors the sooner you can receive what has always been missing, the sooner you free your strengths up for other purposes than self maintenance."

Some of these glasses are worn for years before replacement.

"In Visual Compassion we use the simplicity of a vision exam to help individuals come to terms with their need to receive what God has designed in and for them," says Dr. Dollak. "We help them stop running from problems and mysteries and to start finding solutions around their obstacles. We open their eyes to hope and choice and above all we encourage them to start living as a child of God."

Affordability provides another way for Visual Compassion to spread its compassion to people in need.

"We provide vision exams for $15 and single vision glasses start at $10 while basic bifocals start at $25," says Dr. Dollak. "We have people drive up to two to three hours to see us on a regular basis. It's crazy! They are simply so happy to get vision care they can afford."

Visual Compassion intends to continue its mission of mercy for years to come. Next year, the organization is teaming up with the Star of Hope to install another InFOCUS Vision Clinic in Houston located in their new housing project for the homeless.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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