On the Road with the CNIB Eye Van – Part 1

4/5/2017

“Welcome to Englehart, population 1500." As my eyes fixated on the quickly passing sign, I couldn’t help but have a moment of nostalgia. Not necessarily because I’ve passed this sign dozens of times while making summer trips to Canada’s Wonderland or on the way back to Timmins to visit my parents for my university reading weeks. No, this sentimental feeling was brewing from events much more recent. My mind couldn’t help but wander to no more than two hours ago, when I kissed my wife and two children goodbye and jumped onto what would ultimately be my mobile office for the next eight months. “Make sure to blow the horn Daddy,” my daughter had emphatically reminded me as I climbed up the steps to my driver’s seat. The horn she was referring to was the tremendously loud air horn for the CNIB Mobile Eye Care Unit (affectionately referred to as the “Eye Van”) to which I was now the unlikely co-captain. I say unlikely because over the last 10 years in which I’ve practiced as an optician and ophthalmic technologist, the thought of commandeering such a spectacular vessel had never entered my wildest dreams. But, none the less, here I was, waving goodbye to life in Sudbury to embark on the 2017 CNIB Eye Van Tour.

When I was first approached about blogging about my experience with the CNIB Eye Van, I wasn’t sure what I should write about. After all, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, my mind has been consumed with the three loves of my life that I left behind to pursue this project. All I knew was that I had to find a way to describe why the sacrifice of so many people (myself included) should matter to all of us.

Now, a week later, after spending 4 days in the wonderful town of Englehart, and trekking 150 km down highway 11 to Iroquois Falls, I like to think I’ve gained some perspective; some insight on what makes the Eye Van so special. Sure, it may only be my first week, and you likely wouldn’t be wrong if you accused me of being a shade naïve, but I truly believe I’ve already begun to crack the code of what makes this project one of kind. 

It’s not about what we do; It’s about how we accomplish it.

Sure, the Eye Van is an impressive machine. It’s 48 feet of ophthalmic proficiency on 18 wheels, ready to provide eye care to more than 4,500 patients in more than 30 communities over more than 6,000 km. However, even those remarkable stats are dwarfed by the effort, compassion, and humanity of the volunteers who sacrifice their time and effort to make this a possibility. That is what is truly amazing about this project. It is the fact that people in the community of Englehart, and other communities like it, can rest assured that their ocular health will continue to be monitored due to the grace and generosity of their friends and neighbours. 

For that reason, in future installments of this blog, I’ve decided to focus my efforts on the stories of humanity and compassion which I encounter on the 2017 Eye Van Tour. Whether it be volunteers going the extra mile to help the Eye Van succeed, patients exemplifying what it means to be part of a community, or simply stories that impress, intrigue or astonish; it is important to sometimes look beyond the obvious and truly appreciate the beauty behind the scenes.

I hope that you can continue to join me, because after all, we all need a little daily inspiration in our lives.  Don’t we?

Read Part 2

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