EyeCare International has a rich history that started with Dr. William Brinker, an ophthalmologist in Kent, Ohio. Dr. Brinker had been on numerous health care missions around the globe before deciding to solely focus on organizing a group of volunteers which focused exclusively on vision care and correction in El Salvador. The early mission trips began when Dr. Brinker and his brother, David Brinker MD, spent the winter of 1968 caring for civilian war injuries in Vietnam. After leading many missions to various parts of the world, Dr. Brinker became the Medical Director for the Nicaragua Project of the Christian Medical Society during the 1980s and early 1990s during the brutal Nicaraguan civil war.
In the summer of 1994, Joanne Gillis and Dr. Brinker were asked by the Ursuline Sisters, Cleveland Catholic Diocese, to organize a small group of members from the Nicaragua Project to come to Zaragoza, El Salvador. They organized the mission to Zaragoza in 1995 which became the first of nineteen annual missions to El Salvador by Eye Care International. In 2015 the mission visited Chalatenango which is located in the northern part of the country. The group of approximately 65 volunteers (some of which were on one week visits) helped over 5,500 patients over a busy two week period.
Eye Care International has also been able to effectively partner with Surgical Eye Expeditions International (SEE Int.) to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donated medicines and surgical supplies needed to perform these life changing procedures. Further, with the Lion’s Club additional support, the bulk of the eyeglass needs are met solely through donations. EyeCare International also coordinates with the Catholic nuns in El Salvador to secure sites for the mission and to inform the local community of our missions.
Eye Care International also works to increase awareness of the difficulties faced by the people of El Salvador with optometric problems, ophthalmic pathology, or other serious illnesses, not just in El Salvador but all developing and underserved communities. Eye Care International seeks to serve as many people in as many ways as possible which is why volunteers are not all doctors- it takes all types to make the mission successful. During their two week missions, trained eye care professionals and other volunteers provide the following services to the communities of El Salvador: