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In the Camin
As the ceremonies subsided and the band retreated, men from the
village began to carry boxes of glasses and equipment into the Camin.
In less than two hours over 8,000 pairs of glasses were arranged on
worktables, the autorefractors were installed and switched to life,
benches were rearranged to seat our customers and we had
enjoyed a homemade lunch. We were more than ready to start!
Lions organization began to examine and fit people for glasses.
Those are Lions Joe Marcheggiani helping the patient concentrate
on the target and Rick Frazee documenting the moment.
would come through an entryway, provide name, age and other information
to a registrar and was seated, control form in hand, on a row of
chairs facing the two autorefractors.
provided measurements of the eye. Each guest pressed his or her
head against a bar and a Lion volunteer worked to take a mathematical
picture of the eye. Sometimes our patient would be a wee small
child and our translators and the volunteers would work together
to help the child remain still enough to provide a good measurement.
From the autorefractors
the patient was lead to a desk where Fran Cameron informed each
person whether or not they would need glasses and where, if they
so needed glasses, to wait. She worked with Christina, one of the
translators.In all there were ten translators, Alex, Ilie, Johannes,
and others, who helped during the four days of our work. The translators
were an important link between Americans and Romanians, but by the
end of the first day most of the fitters had begun to learn essentials
The first challenge
to the system occurred during our afternoons work. The village
leaders had established a systematic way for villagers to find a
place in line without pushing and shoving, without having to come
at 6am in the hope of being seen.
Simon Dragan explained, people were regularly lied to about what,
when and where the government would provide items to citizens. Romanians
became cynical about the system. Nobody believed authority, people
would jump into any line they would see and find out afterwards
what was to be had at the end of that line. People believed that
whatever was there would be better than nothing at all, would be
worth the wait, and might later be barterable for something more
useful. There were always lines in Communist Romania and always
the fear of missing out. People simply were conditioned not to believe
authority and to fight for the few goods that the government passed
on to the people.
Father & Son
Future Miss Romania
So, the line
became a crush of people trying to get through the door. It also
seemed that villagers had invited their friends, relatives and co-workers
to come for glasses. The second day the line began to form at 6am
and by 8am it is a tightly packed mass of people trying to get to
the front of the line. They neednt have tried so hard because
we helped everyone who came. We were fighting the conditioning borne
of fifty years of communist lies.
The Lions work
went on for three more days and old men came from the fields, women
from their kitchens, and children from play. There were always a
hundred people waiting to get in.
We would occasional
go outside for short breaks and returning volunteers would comment
on seeing happy children sporting their new glasses. One child with
a crossed eye could see correctly for the first time in his life.
The eye almost magically corrected as the glasses were put on his
little head. Remove the glasses and the weak eye floated to the
quite expensive in Romania when compared to the income of the average
Romanian. Consequently, we reminded people to wear their glasses
rather than saving them, as some people did. Glasses
to them were special and to be preserved. Here are two pictures
of Lions, Ron Hinshaw with a wee little one and his translator Mihaela
Dragan, and Arlene Clester working to properly fit glasses.
On the second
day in Vurpar we picked up another volunteer, Joe Roberts of the
Peace Corps. Stationed in Sibiu, Roberts worked primarily with family
support agencies in Sibiu providing in-service training, organizational
structure and consultation. At the Camin he worked to help people
come quickly into the hall for fittings. He became invaluable. His
pay, a jar of Jiff Peanut Butter and a bottle of Log Cabin syrup,
carried from the States at his request in our baggage, was worth
the cost and more. Here are two pictures of Joe, one on duty at
the front door of the Camin and the other at the home of Domnul
(Mister) And Doamna (Misses) Coldea and Emil Dragan during a tour
of the Coldea home. Like most homes in the village, life at the
Coldeas is almost self-sufficient with hogs, chickens, grapes,
vegetables and a hearth for baking the best of breads.
Boys in Vurpar
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