Duane Salmon, from the IRIS store in Ambleside, West Vancouver, British Columbia, shares his recent experience as a volunteer on a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the Bella Bella, British Columbia community. This small, isolated community welcomed Duane and other volunteers to provide vision care to improve the quality of life for members of the Heiltsuk Nation.

IRIS's tradition of involvement in Bella Bella dates back 40 years, when Phil Mattes, the retired owner of the IRIS store in Ambleside, West Vancouver, began serving this community. Duane Salmon explains that the IRIS team visits Bella Bella twice yearly to provide comprehensive vision care.

Highlights and positive impact

For Duane, the highlight of his humanitarian trip is the direct contact with community members and the opportunity to improve their quality of life. Duane emphasizes the gratitude of those helped, aware of their limited access to eye care. 

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An unforgettable anecdote!

The trip was not without its challenges, as Duane recounts with a memorable anecdote: the difficult landing of a small 19-seater plane, navigating through the violent winds of the Great Bear rainforest. These unpredictable conditions add a dose of adventure and adrenalin to every mission.

IRIS supports improving the quality of life

Asked about IRIS's role in this initiative, Duane explains that planning is carried out at the store level with the help of his regional manager, Tracy Crawford. In this way, IRIS is helping to improve the quality of life of people in these small communities through essential eye care.

Tips for future initiatives

Duane strongly encourages other IRIS stores to get involved in similar initiatives. To establish effective partnerships, it is recommended that you directly contact the health director of the community in which you wish to collaborate.

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The Humanitarian Mission to Bella Bella in figures

During the trip, the IRIS team conducted 120 eye examinations in three days, working 15 hours daily. With the presence of a general practitioner, his assistant and two opticians, this mission required exceptional commitment due to the workload.

The Heiltsuk community has been in the region for 10,000 years and faces contemporary First Nations challenges. Despite this, they welcome the IRIS team with open arms.

Finally, an observation for optometry geeks, Duane highlights a particular technical aspect: the exceptionally large eye sizes of 58 to 61, with a remarkable 38/38. Data that demonstrates the diversity found in the various humanitarian missions.  

The humanitarian mission at Bella Bella is not just about correcting vision but about brightening lives through the experience of better vision. Thanks to Duane Salmon for his commitment and collaboration in the Bella Bella community.