Nice People Networking

Simsbury Teen Plans To Bring Eyeglasses To Dominican Republic

By Michael Walsh

Last year, Daniel Peluso distributed more than 600 pairs of glasses to people in Haiti.This year, the 18-year-old Simsbury High School senior is planning a trip to Santo Domingo and La Romana, cities in the Dominican Republic, to do the same thing.

Peluso’s organization, Glasses for All, started as an idea for an Eagle Scout project. But the project was rejected for reasons of liability. But Peluso didn’t let that stop him from moving forward with the project.

“I wanted to do the project as an Eagle Scout project,” Peluso said. “I wanted to do something that would have a really big effect on somebody. When I was in seventh grade, I remember getting my first pair of glasses. I remember being able to see things like the leaves on trees so clearly. It made such a big impact on my life.”

Harvey and Lewis Opticians donated glasses to his cause, and Peluso was able to raise $15,000 to put toward other expenses and the trip.

Peluso was accompanied by Etienne Alexandre, a West Hartford resident and native of Haiti. Alexandre is a family friend, Peluso said, and the reason why he picked Haiti for his first trip.

“We went down there with 1,000 pairs of glasses and we helped 600 people in just five days,” Peluso said. “We had glasses left over and that’s why we’re doing this next trip.”

In Haiti, Peluso was a sort of traveling eye clinic. He had three large suitcases full of glasses and a mobile eye scanner that would allow them to conduct eye exams. Along with Alexandre, he also made connections with eye doctors.

“It’s awesome,” Peluso said about last year’s experience. “When you give them their glasses, the look on their faces is amazing. They light up.”

While conducting these exams, Peluso discovered that it wasn’t exactly bad eyesight that people needed glasses for. Most of what they distributed were sunglasses and reading glasses, which has made Peluso change his model for his upcoming trip this summer.

“What we found last year were that our two most popular things were reading glasses and sunglasses. Prescription glasses weren’t that common,” Peluso said. “This year, we’re taking our leftover prescription glasses and we’re trying to fundraise for reading glasses and sunglasses.”

Peluso said the sun can be very harmful to unprotected eyes in countries like Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“When you’re that near the equator, the ultraviolet damage you can from the sun is crazy,” Peluso said. “You can even see it, when you’re looking at them and you see cloudy eyes, they get a lot of cataracts.”

Alexandre said even if people in Haiti had access to sunglasses that people in Simsbury would consider cheap, they’d probably not buy them. What money they have would go toward other items, such as food.

“This really helped them,” Alexandre said. “It’s not easy for them to purchase a pair of glasses because there’s no work, there’s no money. The people we are helping are poor and they need that help. It’s not simple. Even if they are $2, they won’t purchase them. They haven’t eaten yet.”

Peluso has received help from other friends at home, including classmates Akash Kaza and Evan Palmberg.

“From the beginning, I had been getting updates from him on the trip and how he was trying to get it passed,” said Kaza, an 18-year-old senior who is also a member of Boy Scout Troop 175 with Peluso. “When it didn’t go through with the Eagle Scouts, I could see how distraught he was. I wanted to try and help out in any way that I could.”

He’s hoping to receive more help in the form of donations, which he said have been slower this time around. He needs to raise $5,000 to help secure travel and other expenses before the trip, which is planned for July.

He has two fundraisers planned in the coming weeks. The first is a dinner on June 17, at St. Catherine of Siena in Simsbury, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Peluso said local restaurants have donated food for the dinner and all he asks in return is a donation of any size.

The second fundraiser is a day of music at Blue Back Square, in West Hartford, on June 25 from noon to 7 p.m.

Donations can also be made to Glasses for All through the GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/glasses-for-all-dominican-republic.

Source: courant.com

June 16, 2017

Category: DR News |

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Last updated July 25, 2017 at 12:32 AM
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