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by Nathan Anderson

The UAB School of Optometry’s Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) trip team — including five students and two doctors — spent three days providing comprehensive eye exams to 290 people in St. Lucia.  This is the first time since 2019 that the student group has traveled abroad to provide care.

St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) was the community partner for this outreach. Established in 1972, the SLBWA provides educational, provisional and social services to people who are blind and visually impaired. The association has grown from a sheltered workshop for the blind into a larger organization that offers various services for the visually impaired.

“The SLBWA told us about their role as a government-funded program and that their funding was falling short,” said UABSO SVOSH President Samantha Chapman, class of 2025. “Luckily, we were able to give them a three-day boost to their ability to care for the people of St. Lucia.” 

The team’s goal in St. Lucia was to provide vision exams to as many patients as possible. It traveled to a new town daily to set up and treat patients in various schools. One of the schools they visited was located in the caldera of the island’s dormant volcano.

“We treated many people that had never been to an eye doctor before and knew nothing about their visual health,” Chapman said.SVOSH Child Photo

The team diagnosed a variety of ocular diseases and high refractive errors. The interventions they provided prevented some patients from losing their eyesight completely.

“I can’t help but be incredibly grateful to the community that came together to help people and make this trip possible,” Chapman said. “Planning this trip was an experiment to see if we could revive our chapter and if our officer team had the capability to plan and execute a project of this magnitude. Thankfully, the answer to that was yes and we are already planning next year’s adventure.”  

UAB SVOSH volunteers made up of students, faculty and staff have provided free, comprehensive eye care and eyeglasses to underserved populations, both domestic and international, enriching the lives of student clinicians and the patients they serve. Past service trips have included Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Honduras and Jamaica, and served thousands of men, women and children.

SVOSH’s focus on service benefits from the help of volunteers and donations. Chapman said that donated glasses may not seem like much, but it makes a difference for people with vision impairments. To make a glasses donation, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..