My name is Wade Dossey and I'm a 27 year old California native living in sunny San Diego. While studying International Business and Chinese at San Diego State University, I decided to study abroad in China for a year. To jumpstart my trip, I participated in SDSU's and Tsinghua's Summer Service Learning Program, which focuses on poverty alleviation and raising awareness in China, as well as around the world.
Location: Puyang, Henan Province, China
It was during this time while teaching that I discovered a very basic and simple need that many of these students had. In the back of the classrooms, a group of as many as 10 students would share the same pair of eyeglasses when we asked them to read off of the board. After witnessing this for the first time, I started letting students try on my glasses, to see if they would help any of them. Most of the time it was for fun and everyone laughed, but eventually, one kid put them on and his eyes immediately lit up. He couldn't stop smiling and could read everything on the board. I had brought an extra pair on the trip so I let him keep them.
Location: Outskirts of Puyang, Henan Province, China
Ever since then, I've been brainstorming on how I could help kids in China, and around the world, afford eye exams and eyeglasses to further their scholastic endeavors. After 2 semesters in Shanghai, lots of tutoring, and another volunteer trip down to Yunnan, I was able to form relationships and make connections that would lead us to form Eyeglass Exchange.
The mission of Eyeglass Exchange is to provide underprivileged children with eyeglasses, help alleviate poverty through education, and to raise poverty awareness around the world.
Our goal for this GoFundMe is to raise enough money to provide each of the 304 students at the schools with eye examinations, and a new or used pair of eyeglasses. According to our contact in Yunnan, glasses purchased from the local manufacturer will cost anywhere from $35 US Dollars - $65 US dollars. This range is due to various prescription needs, such as astigmatism. We are working to reduce this cost, but at the moment that is our best estimate. Travel and living expenses will be paid for by volunteers, and any extra funds raised will go towards those expenses after all glasses have been purchased. Beyond that, extra funds will go towards future projects. All funds will be recorded and accounted for. If we do not meet our goal, the trip will still go on! Our flights are booked and our resources in Yunnan are waiting for us. Every donation counts.
Wen Na: The local Chinese government representative in charge of the Youth League Committee in Yunnan. She helped my group the last time we went to Yunnan to teach English back in 2015 and helped us create the Yunnan Library Project to build a library at the primary school we taught at. While I only helped raise money the first year the project was founded, she, along with East China Normal University, completed the project in 2016.
Ian McMaster: Eyeglass Exchange's first volunteer! He's never been out of the country and has zero experience with Chinese language or culture, but he'll be there helping to document our trip and act as some comic relief.
Local Optometrists: Wen Na in Yunnan is working with local eye doctors who are coming with us on our trip to help facilitate eye examinatons, and place the order of eyeglasses to the local eyeglass manufacturer. This trip would not be happening without them.
The Kids: According to Wen Na, 304 students from the Lianghe County First Middle School, ages 10 to 18, need eye examinations and glasses. Most of these kids have never seen a foreigner in their life. Their lives are simple, yet they look to the outside world with dreams of opportunity and success. Scholastic education is the best option many of these kids have.
Currently looking for more volunteers! Please contact Wade for more info.
Lianghe County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Pull it up on Google Maps!
October 19th - November 5th
We will spend a few days in Shanghai at East China Normal University preparing for the trip ahead. Meeting our translator who will be traveling with us, and discussing the trip with contacts at the school who have helped facilitate this project. On Monday Oct. 23rd, we will start the journey from Shanghai to Yunnan Province. During the first week we will do eye exams, teach English, and play games. Once everyone's eyes have been tested, we will look to match used pairs of eyeglasses with student prescriptions. After that, we will place an order for all of the remaining pairs needed.
Once the order has been placed, we will go visit local sights and explore the province. When we get notice that the order of eyeglasses are ready, we will head back to the schools to hand them out. At the moment we do not know exactly how long the order will take to be completed. More details on the timeline and our planned activities will be updated as we get closer to the departure date!
*Students from a few years ago at one of the schools we will be teaching and volunteering at*
How To Get Involved
In addition to individual donations, we will reach out to small businesses and corporations as sponsors. If you're not able to donate money, any old pairs of glasses will do the trick. Please contact us and we will provide you with an address and more info on what we need when sending your old glasses to us. If you are in the San Diego or Orange County area, we can also coordinate pick ups/drop offs. Once your prescription pair is matched with a student, you will receive a before and after picture, along with a short bio.
Besides knowing that you are helping some kids see the world clearly for the first time, each person who provides a full donation will receive a before and after picture of a student in the pair of glasses they helped to provide. You will also receive a short biography written by the students in Chinese, translated into English by us! Like I said before, this is our pioneer journey and very much a learning experience for everyone involved.
Moving forward, we'll look into creating a "adopt-a-vision" program where you can sponsor a student through their scholastic career, donating a new pair of glasses every year.
T-Shirts are available for purchase and new, innovative designs will constantly be released. Updates will be posted on the GoFundMe.
To create a Not For Profit franchise that extends to all parts of the globe. I envision a platform that can be used by any person who has studied or volunteered abroad, and wants to journey back to help the people in need that they grew to love. This will not only be an eyeglass exchange, but also an cultural exchange that bridges the gaps between countries and cultures. I envision Eyeglass Exhange partnering with causes that inspire adventure and are built on the genuine desire to help others.
Location: Dabangxing, Yunnan Province, China
Location: Road to Dabangxing from TengChong, Yunnan Province, China. Photo taken by John Crommelin
Responsible for the work of art behind me. Texas is about the size of my head.
Two young lads in a school outside of Puyang.
Happy campers in Yunnan. Photo taken by John Crommelin
Photo taken by John Crommelin
Eyeglass Exchange is a registered California corporation organized primarily or exclusively for charitable purposes and which plans to obtain state tax exempt status under California Revenue and Taxation Code section 23701d and/or federal tax exempt status under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Eyeglass Exchange is a nonprofit Public Benefit corporation operating under California corporate number C4042829. Taxes are being filed with the IRS and we are currently waiting for the IRS Letter of Determination.