Native Eyes

“I heard you can fix my eyes.”

Back row: Sonny, team leader Wendy Black-Nasta and Jesse with Vi in front

It was the last day of the first Native Eyes clinic in 2018, when two sisters walked in all alone. The younger, 12-year-old Jesse, bravely stepped forward and said: “I heard you can fix my eyes.

She was failing in school and knew her main issue was that she couldn’t see properly. The siblings had a difficult home life and their parents had not registered them for the free eye exams. Jesse realized if she wanted to get help, she would have to go to the eye clinic herself. The team was deeply touched by Jesse’s initiative and wasted no time in examining Jesse and her big sister, Sonny. As expected, both girls had poor vision.

The girls had fun picking out their frames and couldn’t wait for the day when they could see clearly. A month later, team leader Wendy returned to deliver all the prescription glasses to the Reservation. The expression on Jesse’s face was priceless when she put on her very first glasses and called out: “Oh, I can see!” The next year the girls brought their little sister, Vi, to get her eyes examined and have her vision corrected. Now the team checks in on the sisters every chance they get.

What if you had poor eyesight and no access to eyecare as a child? Imagine never seeing the world around you in focus. Struggling in school and feeling hopeless because you can’t read books or see what the teacher is writing on the board. Would YOUR life have turned out the same?

This is the reality for thousands of Native American children on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The Indian Health Service can only provide one optometrist, one day a month, for the 40,000 tribal members on the Reservation. Almost the entire Rosebud Tribe suffers from severe astigmatism, which causes blurry vision at all distances, but is easily corrected with prescription glasses.

When we found out about this, we knew that Padre Pio would want to help! In 2019, the PPFOA sent staff member and registered nurse Krissy to travel with the NATIVE EYES Clinic and see the impact of this project first-hand. When she returned, Krissy had tears in her eyes as she shared her experience and how grateful everyone she met was to receive the precious gift of clear vision.

The first clinic in 2018 focused on adults, but divine intervention dramatically changed the course of the project. When entire families showed up, the doctors also examined the children. What they discovered was almost unbelievable: 94% of all children had terrible astigmatism. It was clear that the Tribe had been afflicted with poor eyesight for generations. How different their lives could have been!

Since then, your support has allowed a large team of optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians from across America to bring vision care to the Rosebud Tribe for two weeks each year. Thanks to YOU 8,000 children, adults and seniors have already received free eye exams and prescription glasses.

You gave children who had dropped out of school or had failing grades renewed hope for their future. Once their vision was clear, they realized they could learn. It was poor eyesight and not their intelligence that was holding them back! Students returned to school and their grades improved dramatically from Fs to Cs and Bs! Now these kids are excited about learning and can imagine a better life for themselves and their Tribe.

The doctors told us: “Many children have lazy vision which must be identified and treated at a young age. Proper treatment gives these children the best opportunity to learn, succeed academically and have a bright future.”

Correcting the eyesight of children under the age of eight teaches their eyes and brain to work together. It was shocking to learn that even toddlers had poor eyesight!

There is great poverty on the Reservation and many families have no way to transport their children to medical appointments. A traveling clinic will go directly into schools so the team can reach as many young kids as possible. There will be two clinics, one in May and one in August for students in Kindergarten and up to third grade. The earlier their vision can be corrected, the better their chances of learning and succeeding in life.

The medical team donates their time and expertise and is able to source free frames and lenses for this life-changing project. But they still need $42,000 worth of essential equipment like tonometers (measures the pressure inside the eye), retinoscopes (determines the refractive error), dilating drops, trial lenses. This equipment is an investment in the Tribe’s future and will last for years. This is why they need YOUR help.

Padre Pio told us, “Charity is the measure by which our Lord judges all things.” 100% of your gift, no matter the size, will go towards equipping the traveling clinic and the team with all they need to examine the children and make their corrective glasses. Together, we are not just providing vision care, but changing the children’s future. There are no limits to what these kids will be able to achieve because of your charity and kindness. ❤️