Park City Nonprofit Takes Over International Vision Clinics

A young woman tries on a pair of glasses after attending a Hope Alliance vision clinic in Guatemala. The Park City-based nonprofit provides vision care and eyeglasses to underserved communities in Utah and overseas.
Courtesy of Alliance of Hope

A local nonprofit dedicated to providing vision for all will resume overseas shipping this summer for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began — and Parkites are invited.

Hope Alliance, an organization that strives to provide vision care and eyewear to people around the world, is seeking volunteers for three projects in Latin America and Africa later this year. The first vision expedition, scheduled for August, will benefit people living in the remote areas of Panajachel, Guatemala, near Lake Atitlan.

For Dell Fuller, chairman of the Hope Alliance board, it’s exciting to be back in international humanitarian work after three years.

Fuller became involved with the nonprofit Park City — founded in 2001 — more than a decade ago. He was looking for new ways to get involved in the community when he was asked to go on a visioning expedition with Hope Alliance. The invitation came at the right time in Fuller’s life.

“I needed that,” he said. “Suddenly I’m in Guatemala and we’re doing eye exams, testing people’s eyes and giving them glasses. I was just overwhelmed with a feeling of a huge yes, that’s what I’m supposed to do. It just resonated very strongly with me.

Since then, Fuller has dedicated himself to the Hope Alliance, which was founded to support underserved communities in Summit and Wasatch counties. Eventually, the organization expanded its services to Moab and began partnering with other vendors to work overseas. In 2017, the Vision program expanded to Uganda.

Although the Park City-based nonprofit now focuses on vision, Fuller said the organization has also helped provide other services related to reproductive health, dental care, and cleansing. water in the past.

In the fall of 2019, the Hope Alliance was planning international shipments for the following year when the first new cases of coronavirus were reported. Fuller said preparations “came to a screeching halt” as the nonprofit considered how to proceed.

The organization chose to reinvest in the local community and developed new programs to meet their needs. Fuller credits Executive Director Diane Bernhardt’s passion for responding and helping others as the reason operations have continued throughout the pandemic.

“With COVID, we’ve been able to get some really nice grants and start an incredibly successful program here where the attitude is that we’re going to take care of our own people right here in our hometown and in our neighborhoods. We have had phenomenal success in this area,” he said. “Now, with the COVID pressures easing, people are dying to get back to international work.”

Hope Alliance will continue to provide national clinics twice a month at People’s Health Clinic and expand services in Moab in addition to overseas work. The first expedition is scheduled for Aug. 12-21 in Guatemala, where Fuller said the volunteers will work primarily in Panajachel with indigenous people of Mayan descent. Alliance Hope often visits this location as it is one of many small remote towns surrounding the lake and allows volunteers to serve more in need.

The volunteers will travel to Guatemala City on Friday, August 12. They will have free time to explore Antigua on Saturday and Sunday morning before departing for Panajachel in the afternoon. Participants will then assist in vision clinics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The following two days are open to discovery or excursions with a departure on Sunday morning.

Fuller said the nonprofit is also partnering with the municipal government of Panajachel on this expedition to improve outreach efforts. City officials have been promoting the eye clinic to residents and plan to provide transportation for people living in rural areas.

“The whole concept of the partnership is, personally for me, kind of a warm blur. We’re not going there solo, but we’re engaging dynamically with the locals,” Fuller said.

Those interested in volunteering with Hope Alliance do not need to have any experience or background in the medical field, but they should think on their feet. The nonprofit will hold training sessions in the Park City area and remotely to teach volunteers what they need to know.

A young girl smiles after being given a pair of glasses after attending a Hope Alliance vision clinic in Guatemala. The Park City-based nonprofit provides vision care and eyeglasses to underserved communities in Utah and overseas.
Courtesy of Alliance of Hope

Fuller plans to bring her 13-year-old granddaughter on the expedition in hopes of sowing the seed of the importance of humanitarian work.

“When you’re sitting across the table and somebody gets a pair of glasses…where you’re dealing with people who have never had an eye exam in their life and those people may have 50 or 60 years old. When they put [eyeglasses] for the first time, I have to admit that I cry sometimes,” Fuller said. “The body language of these people is overwhelming to me because they are having a monumental life experience for the first time. They are processing it. You can feel the energy. It makes me come back.

Volunteers can expect to pay $1,791 for a single hotel room or $1,508 for a shared double room. Costs include hotel, ground transportation, group gratuities, water and snacks, lunches on clinic days, and administrative fees paid to Hope Alliance. A complimentary breakfast will be served at the hotel. The price does not include the cost of airfare and optional insurance, lunches on non-clinic days, evening meals and visits or excursions.

Vision clinics are also planned in Uganda in September and in Mexico in October.

Those interested in participating in the trip to Guatemala can email contact Fuller directly. For more information on the Hope Alliance or upcoming expeditions, please call 435-333-3334.

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