RestoringVision Travels to Hospital El Buen Samaritano in the Dominican Republic 

By Gerardo Medina Duarte, Program Manager, Latin America and the Caribbean, RestoringVision 

From July 16 to July 20, RestoringVision’s Mark Lorey, Vice President of Global Programs and Impact, and Gerardo Medina, Program Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean – visited the Dominican Republic (DR) to see firsthand the impact of vision services and eyeglasses provided by RestoringVision’s programming in the lives of people living in extreme poverty in the country.  The visit was hosted by RestoringVision’s leading partner in the DR: Hospital El Buen Samaritano (HBS).  In addition to its excellent hospital in the city of La Romana, HBS works with government primary health care clinics in all 32 provinces of the country and with a range of other NGOs, faith-based organizations, and service organizations like the Lions Clubs.  It also supports community health promoters in many of the country’s Bateyes: the sugar cane plantation that are home to many of the most vulnerable people in the country. HBS works with all of these partners to provide vision screenings and eyeglasses through RestoringVision’s programs to people who need them across the DR. 

At the beginning of this expedition was the space known as “Casa Pastoral,” a dormitory from the Hospital El Buen Samaritano that welcomes compassionate mission groups from the United States. They gathered here to embark on a diverse range of missions, such as constructing homes in the bateyes, extending educational support to vulnerable populations, and providing healthcare assistance to those in need. It was evident that “Casa Pastoral” served as a powerful nexus for humanitarian efforts in the Dominican Republic.  

As the sun-drenched days rolled on, the reach of RestoringVision’s programs and eyeglasses became evident. Implementing the provision of these life-improving reading glasses for people in need is carefully orchestrated through a vast network of 1,660 Primary Attention Units, the community-level clinics that are the foundation of the National Health System across the Dominican Republic.  

One notable highlight was the heartwarming vision clinic at the “La Higuera” Primary Attention Unit. The esteemed Mayor, Israel Toribio, graced the event with his presence, passionately advocating the significance of providing reading glasses to the most vulnerable.  

These simple yet powerful tools, reading glasses, rekindled the joy of near vision for tens of  thousands of people over 40 years old and in vulnerable conditions that suffer from presbyopia, who account for almost 10% of the 11M population in the Dominican Republic. In the words of the Dominicans who received a vision screening and eyeglasses, reading glasses enable individuals to rediscover the wonders of their immediate world.  

A journey into the Bateye Cacata, one of the main Bateyes located in the La Romana region, offered a view into the process of holding a vision screening and providing reading glasses by the missioners. Here, Gerardo and Mark were especially inspired by the deep commitment of the community health promoter Cleotilde, who has served her community faithfully for more than a dozen years. 

Venturing further into the captivating province of San Pedro de Macoriz, RestoringVision was met with a warm welcome from another ally of Hospital El Buen Samaritano – the Citronella Foundation, steered by the visionary CEO, Mr. Franchezco Mall. The foundation’s support enables supervision and the delivery of reading glasses to those in need at the Primary Attention Unit of “Dispensario de Nuestra Señora de la Alta Gracia.”  

The voyage continued in the province of La Romana, where yet another ally of the Hospital El Buen Samaritano, the National Health Service, represented by the esteemed Supervisor Wandy Adams, joined the visit. The visiting team explored three Primary Care Units: Cucama, Juan Pablo Duarte, and Piedra Linda, learning how each delivers RestoringVision programing and eyeglasses, and discussing ways to expand this work.   

In the final chapters of this visit, the team saw the close collaboration with local Lions Club leading vision clinics in several Primary Care Units in the town of Hato Mayor.  This powerful connection showed the vast network of allies that Hospital El Buen Samaritano weaves throughout the Dominican Republic, illuminating the sight of those in need.  

Gerardo and Mark were encouraged to see the inner workings of Hospital El Buen Samaritano, including the secure warehouse that holds RestoringVision’s glasses prior to vision clinics initiated by partners across the DR. Gerardo and Mark were truly inspired by the visionary, passionate, highly capable leadership of Hospital El Buen Samaritano.  They especially want to express their appreciation to: 

  • Moises Sifren, CEO of El Hospital El Buen Samaritano  
  • Dr. Franklin Bidó, Medical Director  
  • Odaliz Ruiz, Social Services Director 
  • Victor Bautista, Marketing Leader