Park City nonprofit resumes international vision clinics |

Park City nonprofit resumes international vision clinics

The Hope Alliance will be traveling overseas this summer for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began

A young woman tries on a pair of eyeglasses 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 the Hope Alliance

A local nonprofit dedicated to providing vision for all will resume overseas expeditions 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 eyeglasses for people worldwide, 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 regions of Panajachel, Guatemala near Lake Atitlan.

For Dell Fuller, the board chair of Hope Alliance, it’s exciting to get back into international humanitarian work after three years.

Fuller became involved with the Park City nonprofit – founded in 2001 – over a decade ago. He was seeking new ways to become involved in the community when he was asked to go on a vision 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 vision exams, testing people’s eyes and giving them glasses. I just was overwhelmed with the feeling of a gigantic yes, this is what I’m meant to be doing. It just resonated with me very loudly.”

Since then, Fuller has been devoted to the Hope Alliance, which was founded to support underserved communities in Summit and Wasatch counties. Eventually, the organization expanded services into Moab and began partnering with other providers 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 also helped provide other services related to reproductive health, dental and water purification in the past.

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

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

“With COVID, we were able to get some really nice grants and launch an incredibly successful program right here where the attitude is we’re going to take care of our own people right here in our hometown and in our neighborhoods. We’ve been phenomenally successful in doing that,” he said. “Now with the pressures of COVID kind of easing, people are just dying to get back into international work.”

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

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

Fuller said the nonprofit is also partnering with Panajachel’s municipal government on this expedition to improve outreach efforts. Town officials have been marketing the vision clinic to residents and are planning to provide transportation to people living in rural areas.

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

People who are interested in volunteering with the Hope Alliance do not need to have any experience or background in the medical field, but they do need to 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 recieving a pair of eyeglasses from 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 the Hope Alliance

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

“When you’re sitting across the table, and somebody is getting a pair of glasses … where you’re taking care of people who have never had an eye exam ever in their lives and these people might be 50 or 60 years old. When they put [eyeglasses] on for the first time, I have to confess, I cry sometimes,” Fuller said. “The body language of those people is overwhelming to me because they’re having a first-time, monumental lifetime experience. They’re processing it. You can feel the energy. It keeps me coming back.”

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

Vision clinics are also scheduled for Uganda in September and Mexico in October.

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

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