By Denis Langlois
A team of Ontario opticians, including Sudbury’s Bryan Todd, recently saw more than 1,000 patients and dispensed nearly 900 glasses during a 10-day mission trip to Africa.
The journey to Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi was the third eyeglass mission for Todd, who has done similar work in Belize in Central America as well as in the southeastern African country of Malawi.
Todd has owned Todd Vision Centre in Sudbury since 1981. He started in the optical industry as a student in 1973 and began taking his optician’s licence by correspondence from Ryerson University. He became a licenced optician, after finishing his studies at Ryerson, in 1975. He was 21 at the time and then considered to be the youngest optician licenced in Ontario.
Todd has been on the College of Opticians of Ontario for more than 25 years and currently holds the position of vice-president.
Recently, we got a chance to chat with Bryan Todd about his latest eyeglass mission to Africa and the impact it’s had on him.
Q. Bryan, please tell us about how this latest mission trip came about.
A. I was approached by a fellow optician, Amber Fournier in Sudbury, to see if I had any interest in going to Kenya, specifically Nairobi, and work in the less fortunate areas outside of Nairobi. I gave it some thought and decided to go again. I approached another optician friend of mine, Paul Burnham of Burnham Optical in Kingston. He agreed to go with me as Paul and I had both been in Belize together. Paul has been on more missions than most opticians, going to Guyana a number of times.
The trip was organized by a nurse from Sudbury, who has helped create an organization call I SEE U out of Sudbury. This non-profit group supports 22 orphan children in a home they sponsor in Nairobi where we stayed. The kids were wonderful and great to spend time with.
Q. What did you bring on this mission?
A. We brought handheld autorefractors generously purchased thanks to Paul Fabish of Plastic Plus and approximately 1,500 pairs of eyeglasses.
Some of the frames were generously donated by Perfect Optical and lenses donated by Hoya and Optik K&R, so Paul and I were able to make up brand new eyeglasses. The majority were donated glasses from local optical dispensaries in Sudbury. Other glasses were donated from friends and colleagues.
Q. What is it like for you to do these mission trips?
A. The reaction one gets from these people when they first put a pair of eyeglasses on and have the ability to see clearly is quite overwhelming. It certainly makes you forget about any reservations you might have about going and makes it all worthwhile.
Perhaps it is self-serving in a way, but helping people out that are so less fortunate than we are does make you feel great and definitely makes you want to continue going on more missions. We do take so much for granted until you are exposed to those less fortunate than you.
Q. Do you think you will do more of this work in the future?
A. I am quite sure I will do more missions in the future. Once you start it is difficult to stop. It truly is a good thing to do.
I have been fortunate enough to have been interviewed by radio and television about this trip and I use those opportunities to encourage others to help in any way. The reaction from the public and my own patients has been amazing.