One-time project

2009 - Cajamarca, Peru

Cajamarca, Peru


  • 1800 eye examinations
  • 35 ocular surgeries
  • 100 general medical consultations


  • Vision sin Fronteras
  • DIRESA Cajamarca

Cajamarca, Peru 2009

By Marilanie Jean, Volunteer IRIS Mundial

May 4, 2009 – a day I will never forget. This day, I sat on a plane and waved goodbye to the comfort of all that I had yet known. There I was, sunken into my seat with fear and doubt, with little knowledge that the next two weeks would change my life forever – that the next two weeks would prove to be some of the best days of my young life.

In two weeks, I confronted a rainbow of emotions: joy, wonder, sadness, respect, admiration, and love. I developed friendships with the only individuals who could truly understand my journey: our dedicated group of volunteers. I learned about the historically rich and beautiful city of Cajamarca, Peru, and most of all, I learned from its residents the love and care they have for each other, as well as the challenges they face each day. IRIS Mundial gave me an opportunity to meet a human need while personally experiencing the culture of Peru.

I saw up close the impact of poverty and could not be properly prepared for its influence on my life. As much as I could imagine the hardship faced by so many individuals, I could not be prepared to see with my own eyes the permanently soiled feet of a woman who has never owned a pair of shoes, the face of a boy in chronic pain with no arms or legs, and the eyes of a nine-year-old boy with a cataract. Yet, these sad memories are accompanied also by memories of hope of grateful people gazing at you with eyes of appreciation through their new lenses. These are memories I will never forget – memories that make your heart grow fonder. I will always remember the hugs and kisses I received from little girls wearing their new sunglasses – their first pair. Through IRIS Mundial, what we gave these people is something that, in Canada, we take for granted; through glasses and surgeries, we gave individuals the gift of sight, and they could not be more grateful.

On this mission, each individual received a pair of sunglasses, prescription glasses if needed, and a case to protect their new belongings. They received medical attention, medications, and pre-op consultations, if appropriate. Finally, 35 cataract surgeries were successfully performed. All of these services were made possible by our wonderful volunteers and the cooperation of individuals from Vision sin Fronteras and the Cajamarca Regional Health Board.

Overall, we saw over 1700 patients, and this number to me is simply not just a number; it represents 1700 lives standing in front of me, and 1700 lives we touched. In Cajamarca, I quickly found out that this is the magic of missions – the magic that Jean-Pierre often spoke to me about when I was just a little girl – that you cannot help but be touched by the people’s gratitude for your time, when in reality, they are the ones who travel for hours and stand in long line-ups without a complaint – only thanks.

I could not help but be touched by the short but powerful moments of thanks- a look- an expressive look and the words “Gracias Señora”. These moments touch your heart and inadvertently change your perspective on life.

May 15, 2009 – another memorable date. This day, I recall sitting tall in my seat, filled with emotions of gratitude and fulfillment, waving not “goodbye” to Peru but “until next time”.

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