Susan Laskowski has traveled to Mexico and the Dominican Republic 32 times so others can see the sights.
No, she’s not a tour guide. She helps others improve their eyesight.
Laskowski is a dispensing optician with BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists. She measures, fits, sells and dispenses prescription eyewear and contact lenses to patients.
She recently returned from an optical mission trip to Rancho Arriba in the Dominican Republic, northwest of the capital city of Santo Domingo, where she provided eye exams and prescription glasses to people of all ages. The region is best known for cattle ranching and coffee bean production.
“We set up a clinic in a middle and high school building and we saw 1,158 people for eye exams and then we fitted them with used eyeglasses,” Laskowski says. “For most recipients, this likely will be the only eye exam or glasses they have access to in this community.”
It all started in Etzatlan
Laskowski’s first mission trip was to Etzatlan, a town of about 17,000 in west-central Mexico. Her inspiration to travel came in 1989, after a presentation by a doctor who discussed his optical mission trip.
Now, Laskowski makes the annual trip with volunteers from VOSH, the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity group from Wisconsin. VOSH provides vision and quality eye health to people in areas lacking sufficient eye care worldwide.
Laskowski’s airfare was supported by an area Lions Club.
“All the other expenses are on my own,” she says.
The mission trips have become a source of personal pride, Laskowski says.
“It’s very rewarding to provide eyecare for the first time that a person is able to see in their life,” she says. “It puts a smile on their face. I’ve had many reactions throughout the years … Sight is important.”
She sees that in the gratitude expressed by those she treats during her optical mission trips.
“When people receive a pair of glasses, they’re grateful for what they receive,” she says. “It may not be the exact prescription but it’s something … they just want to be able to see.”
Volunteer your talents
Laskowski encourages others to volunteer their talents, big or small.
“I think if anybody is able to do any type of volunteer work either in the community or in a third world country, I think it’s something that a person needs to do in their lifetime because they come back feeling more grateful for everything you have in life.”