It was a sunny day in October and donors on our 2018 Armenia Trip were huddled around the AECP Mobile Eye Hospital in the Armavir province of Armenia waiting to tour the facilities. An elderly woman with sparkling eyes and a wide smile walked up to our group and asked “Are you the people who donate money so that we can see?” It was a heartwarming moment shared among a small group of donors and it was one of the highlights of our trip.
The Armenian EyeCare Project’s Armenia Trip for friends and donors began last year as a special way to celebrate our organization’s 25th Anniversary – for our supporters to see our programs in person and experience Armenia together. Because the trip was so successful, we decided to organize an “encore” excursion for 2018.
So from September 19 through October 3, 2018, friends and supporters of the EyeCare Project, alongside our staff and volunteer physicians, embarked on another unforgettable trip to Armenia. The trip, which coincided with our annual Medical Mission, allowed guests to see several of the EyeCare Project’s programs on the ground; get to know the dedicated people behind the Project, including Founder and President Dr. Roger Ohanesian and our team in Armenia; and tour the beautiful landscapes and sites across the country.
Among the most significant events donors were able to witness was the Grand Opening of the EyeCare Project’s newest Regional Eye Clinic – the John Ohannes Khachigian AECP Regional Eye Clinic – in Gyumri. Benefactors, along with AECP physicians and staff, joined government officials on September 27 and unveiled the state-of-the-art clinic with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and intimate reception.
Located in the second-largest city in Armenia, the John Ohannes Khachigian AECP Regional Eye Clinic is the fourth Regional Eye Clinic developed by the Armenian EyeCare Project and ensures that all residents of Armenia have access to quality eye care and need not travel to the country’s capital city to receive it.
During the trip, donors also got a chance to visit and tour the AECP’s Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness; the Subspecialty Clinics located at the Malayan Ophthalmological Center and our Mobile Eye Hospital. The mobile clinic, which travels across Armenia to offer eye care and treatment at no cost to residents on the poverty list, was a special experience for guests.
“I watched a cataract surgery with Dr. Roger explaining it to me,” one guest, Emily Matthews, says. “As I was leaving, a woman was so excited, she came and started hugging me. I asked the nurse to explain her joy and she told me that she was blessing me because she was finally able to see. This is amazing work that the Eye Care Project does.”
Aside from visiting several AECP programs throughout Armenia, the nearly 30 guests who participated in our 2018 Donor Trip were also able to see and experience the beautiful country of Armenia, which included day tours to some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the world; evenings filled with delicious food and entertainment and overnight trips to Jermuk and Karabakh.
Some words used to describe the trip by guests are “amazing,” “heartwarming” and “profound.” One guest said the trip was “a memorable and full of family warmth experience.” Still, it may be difficult to put such a meaningful trip into words. More than anything, the experience offered guests a feeling – one that is unforgettable and will last for years and years to come.