BYU students have a vision and are literally sharing that vision with others through their nonprofit organization Seeing is Believing.
Seeing is Believing is a student-run and organized program that provides eyeglasses to people in Cambodia. It collects both donations and old glasses to outfit those who don’t have access or can’t afford eyeglasses. The student organization works with the Cambodian government to distribute the glasses and screen patients for vision impairments.
The idea for the organization started when Trammell Cox, founder of Seeing is Believing, finished his mission in Cambodia. His family traveled to Cambodia to pick him up, and while they were there, Cox’s little brother delivered glasses as an eagle project. The Cox family brought 500 pairs of glasses and $700 to outfit those in need.
“With that money, we spent $500 and bought 500 pairs of reading glasses and cases,” Cox said. “Reading glasses are about 50 cents out there, and prescription glasses are about $10, so we had an optometrist go with us to an orphanage and screen the entire orphanage, and for $100 we fit about 15 people with brand-new pairs of prescription glasses.”
[media-credit name=”Courtesy of Trammel Cox ” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]After seeing the reactions of the recipients, Cox kicked around the idea of continuing the service. A year and a half later, he and some friends decided to launch it again, marking the start of Seeing is Believing.
“To see them put their glasses on for the first time and they could see the board and they were all excited, we thought that was really cool,” he said. “For a little bit of effort, we can do a lot of good and have a huge impact, so we decided it was something we wanted to do long-term and on a little bit larger scale.”
The organization has grown, and this year its goal is to provide 5,000 pairs of glasses. The organization has two primary roles: one group seeks corporate and other big donations to buy new glasses; the other group operates a recycling program where students go out and collect old glasses.
“We realize that most people have glasses, and if you have glasses you probably have 4 or 5 pairs laying around that you just don’t know what to do with, so we go out and collect glasses,” Cox said. “It gives people a chance to put their old eyeglasses to good use. Most of them are just sitting around collecting dust.”
The work with the Cambodian government program gives the organization access to eye doctors, helps them order glasses and even helps them with transportation around the country, Cox said.
Bob Parsons, a former BYU professor and donor to Seeing is Believing, said he donates because of an experience he had watching his grandson put on his glasses for the first time.
“I watched him one day when he had just gotten glasses and there were birds flying over the top of him,” Parsons said. “He looked at them like, ‘That’s the first I’ve ever seen a bird fly,’ and I think, ‘My goodness, that’s got to be quite a revelation.’ I just remember watching him and imagine it’s the same for these people in Cambodia. To be able to see is just a blessing and a great event to be able to provide that for these people.”
Jordan Turner, a BYU student and business management major, is involved with Seeing is Believing as the chief operations officer. He said along with helping others, his involvement has made an impact on his life.
“It’s incredibly fulfilling; I really enjoy being a part of this, I love seeing it grow and I love knowing that, seriously, every single dollar, every single pair of glasses is going to help somebody in need,” Turner said.
Turner said, although they have been successful, more volunteers and donations could help the aid stretch further.
“I wish more people would get involved, and I hope people understand that this is really impactful and meaningful because we’re changing lives literally one pair of glasses at a time,” Turner said.
More information about the organization and upcoming events can be found on its website, www.sibcambodia.org.