THE EYEGLASSES PROJECT
On October 23, a team of OQ stylists, opticians, and our optometrist, Dr. Daniel Heimdahl, set up a temporary eye clinic in the Carnegie Community Centre, offering free eye exams and prescription glasses to low-income residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We collaborated with The Eyeglasses Project, a local charity whose goal is to make vision accessible to marginalized Canadians.
Located at Main and Hastings, an intersection famously considered the epicentre of one of Canada’s poorest postal codes, Carnegie Centre provides community services to many of Vancouver’s most vulnerable.
The centre is often referred to as the “the Downtown Eastside’s living room”, and it truly feels like the beating heart of an area requiring a great deal of care. The staff at the Centre went above and beyond to make our temporary clinic possible, and we set-up shop in two cozy rooms on the centre’s top floor. In less than an hour, registration reached capacity — and then some.
Patients moved through pre-testing, then had their eye exams, then met with our stylists to be fitted with the perfect specs. Offering a wide range of styles for patients to choose from, we had a blast helping people into what, for many, was their first-ever pair of glasses.
By the end of the day, our team examined and fit 86 people, 49% of whom had never seen an eye doctor before, despite an average age of 69. But it didn't stop there.
We committed to helping everyone who’d registered, so over the next few days, we continued to see patients finishing the project with 102 patients in new glasses, all free of charge.
The vast majority of the people we helped were seniors, for whom an accurate prescription and pair of well-made glasses are especially vital. As was pointed out by a Carnegie Centre team member, uncorrected vision creates a massive obstacle for people when it comes to accessing services and accomplishing a basic daily routine.
When someone is able to see clearly, they’re more likely to engage with their community and utilize the sort of services provided by places like the Carnegie Centre. Correcting one’s vision not only helps them see more clearly; it helps them regain agency. We provided comprehensive examinations to each patient , which meant we were able to refer many individuals whose eye health revealed more serious health risks to other medical practitioners.
Two weeks after the initial clinic, OQ and The Eyeglasses Project returned to Carnegie to dispense the frames to their new owners. According to Taylor, one of our dispensing opticians and OQ’s West Coast Operations Manager, “There were lots of happy people.”
“It’s always gratifying to help someone see more clearly,” Taylor said; “but even more so in this case, because some of these people might never have been able to see an optometrist otherwise.”
At OQ, we often say our favourite part of our jobs is the moment someone dons a new pair of glasses — their face lights up as they look around and realize all the little details they’d been missing before. It’s like, for a second, the world is new again. To be able to deliver that moment outside of our stores, in a community that truly needed it, was an overwhelmingly rewarding experience for everyone involved.
We couldn’t have done it without The Eyeglasses Project and the tireless work of the Carnegie Centre staff, and we owe a huge thank you to our lab, Plastics Plus, who handled a massive quantity of orders for this initiative and donated all the lenses to the cause.
We do our work on the traditional, unceded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples and are grateful to be here as uninvited guests.
Written by Jocelyn Tennant | OQ Commercial Drive Manager
Photos by John Lo, The Eyeglasses Project