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Meet Dr. Élaine Giasson, Optometrist and IRIS Mundial volunteer since its foundation. She participated in more than 7 missions with IRIS Mundial, including the last one in Senegal in November 2018. Élaine is a person who enjoys having fun and who has a contagious laugh! “She is a valuable asset to us because when a problem arises, she has the ability to analyze it in its entirety and always suggest solutions ” as per Marie-Chantal Hudon, volunteer and colleague of Elaine. In addition to her involvement in the missions, Élaine assumes several roles within the organization: She is a member of working committees on new project development, she works on the proofreading of official documents and she is a member of the administration council since September 2016, among other involvements. At her store, Élaine also frequently coordinates the work of her employees for IRIS Mundial. Indeed, they meticulously sort, clean, repair and analyze used glasses, before sending them to us. Thank you Élaine for your dedication!

Here is what she had to tell us regarding her involvement, answering the question: “What is IRIS Mundial for me? “:

“In the spring of 2001, I attended an IRIS, The Visual Group meeting at Lac Delage near the Capitale-Nationale. During this training weekend, the optometrist Dr. Jean-Pierre Tchang showed us pictures of a mission in Haiti that he pursued with other optometrists and opticians. Immediately after his presentation, I met him and told him that I absolutely wanted to be part of the next mission. I had always wanted to participate in a mission abroad: When I was watching reports from Doctors Without Borders, I admired them for making such a difference by helping people in need. I never dared to send my application before, because I thought this type of mission lasted several months. Having two young children at the time, it was not possible for me to be away for such a long time, but when Jean-Pierre spoke about one to two-week missions, I jumped on the opportunity! This is how my dream of being part of this international solidarity movement began.

A few months later, I was part of the first IRIS Mundial mission in Peru. It took place in Huaraz, a town about 6-7 hours away from the capital Lima, and over 3,200 meters above sea level. I remember when we arrived in Huaraz: all the Rotary Club members were waiting for us, since they were our partners for this mission. As we got off the bus, they all hugged us and embraced us with such gratitude. It was a very moving moment and the first of a long succession of touching moments!

I think that our first mission is the most decisive and memorable, because everything is new and so impressive! We must adapt quickly to new living conditions, smells, barriers to communication with people, and new ocular conditions that we have never seen before. Unfortunately, we also have to get used to seeing poverty up close, and therefore realize everything we have and take for granted. We must also get familiar with assembly-line work to examine as many people as possible: the needs are so great! We must accept that sometimes, we can get tired and have to stop to rest, even if there is so much to do, in order to stay healthy throughout the mission. We must also understand that sometimes, unfortunately, we cannot help as much as we would like. At that moment, it is heartbreaking to see the disappointment of these people who sometimes expect so much from us …

All these moments make you wish to go back for a second mission and a third and a fourth, …

It’s also meeting the volunteers, people who want to give the best of themselves. These big-hearted people with whom we share a meal, a room, a seat on a bus or a mototaxi (mission in Iquitos). People with whom we share the day we spent, while having a little drink to relax in the evening. The ones who make us laugh with their anecdotes of the day, or who share a touching moment they experienced. All these people become our family during all the missions and it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to them when we come back. Some have crossed my path on subsequent missions and others have not, but all of them make me want to experience it again …

This is why I returned on missions six additional times after Huaraz, mainly in Haiti and Peru (Iquitos, Labrousse, Caraz, Miragoâne, Cañete and Saint-Louis). It’s also for all these reasons that I will continue to go again and again …”