Jan Felix | Guest Writer
“Bula!” This Fijian greeting is a blessing of good health and prosperity in the Pacific islands. It is precisely the greeting Dr. Roger Pickering and his wife, Kristin, received in February on their expedition to Vanua Levu, Fiji. The journey was focused on humanitarian efforts in ocular health and eye care among the islands.
After a thirteen-hour flight, the Pickerings landed in Fiji along with twenty-six other volunteers from Utah to California. Among them were five optometrists, one emergency responder, six optometric students, and several nurses and volunteers. They arrived at the Natuvu Creek Mission after several long hours of plane transfers and bus rides.
Over five days, they performed exams and provided glasses for more than 2500 people, seeing over five hundred patients daily. Local Lehi citizens donated hundreds of pairs of glasses. Many of the citizens of Fiji traveled by prop plane and watercraft from the surrounding islands, and many others traveled several hours by bus to reach Natuvu Creek from the opposite side of the island.
Dr. Pickering has traveled on optometric missions six times with Eagle Condor Humanitarian, a non-profit organization based in Salt Lake City. Kristin Pickering is an office administrator for Eagle Condor and has served several labor-focused missions outside of the optometric effort. Dr. John Larcabal joined the Pickerings. He has worked alongside them in humanitarian efforts for several years.
During this expedition, however, the group had the opportunity to serve outside Eagle Condor’s organization, joining the Mission of the non-profit Natuvu Creek to bring vision aid to the locals.
Though Fiji is often seen as a tourist area and described as one of the most developed areas in the South Pacific, the vision care of the people of Vanua Levu was poor.
Natuvu Creek is an American foundation sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church but welcomes patients from all backgrounds, economic statuses, or political beliefs. After their return to Lehi, Roger and Kristin expressed being overwhelmed at the gratitude and generosity extended to them during their stay from the locals, feeling honored to serve them through optometric care. Kristin commented that “Their enthusiasm and love for life is infectious. It brought me great joy to serve such genuine and loving people.” Roger added that “They were so loving, humble, and grateful for any help given. One of the tremendous blessings of going on these humanitarian expeditions is meeting family and friends from across the globe that you never knew you had.”
Without a doubt, these medical expeditions work to alleviate and aid vision concerns worldwide, from the Pacific islands to the mountains and jungles of South America. Given the selflessness exhibited by Dr. Roger and Kristin Pickering in these expeditions, it’s no surprise their aid is always welcomed with good health and prosperity– Bula!
Dr. Pickering is the optometrist of Lehi’s Lehi Vision Care, located at 86 West Main Street, Lehi, Utah. Donations of used glasses are always accepted for future humanitarian trips. Visit lehivisioncare.com to learn more.