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April 6, 2013

Optometrist's eyes opened by Nicaraguan poverty

PLATTSBURGH — Just one of some 1,200 students wore eyeglasses when they welcomed North Country Mission of Hope to Nicaragua for a recent mission there.

“Then, I looked at our group,” Dr. George Mitsoglou said. “Three-quarters of them were wearing glasses.”

Granted the American contingent was far smaller, but the contrast was striking all the same.

Mitsoglou, owner of Mati Eyecare in downtown Plattsburgh, rectified some of that inequity in proper eye care on the February trip, providing Mission of Hope’s first clinic devoted to that need.

For four days, he gave eye exams to the impoverished people who live around the mission’s Nicaraguan base in Chiquilistagua.

Many he saw needed medical attention for such ailments as glaucoma and cataracts.

But others were given the miracle of improved sight, as they were fitted with glasses for the first time in their lives.

“There were a lot of smiles,” the doctor said. “It gave me a lot of satisfaction to be helping people who were in such great need.”

‘VERY APPRECIATIVE’

Having grown up in a post-war era has made Mitsoglou more appreciative of being financially stable. He said he wanted to give back and searched for a mission group for years that not only assisted the needy in foreign countries, but also locally. 

Mission of Hope, a Plattsburgh-based humanitarian-aid organization, was exactly what he was looking for, he said.

The group has a proven track record of giving back to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere, he said.

Fliers posted in the local community promoted the clinics, and they received such a big response that they had to turn some people away because of the lack of time.

“It was quite discouraging to do that,” Mitsoglou said. “But hopefully, it’ll give me an opportunity to return and help some more.”

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