In 2002, optometrist Dr. Sammy Rose and engineer Holland Kendall designed and created an optical set-up which could analyse a person's vision.  The machine works with a computer programme to select the glasses prescription which best matches the person's eyesight.  This machine, worth $17,000, enabled the two men to start setting up optometry stations at medical clinics all over the world.  

In 2005, the machine was taken on a trip to Honduras.  The trip was part of Dr. Rose's missionary work to help teach impoverished communities and give them the medical attention they desperately needed.  It was one of many trips that Dr. Rose had embarked upon to enable his optical set-up to help benefit those with poor eyesight who otherwise would not get treated.  It was however the first trip taken by Dr. Rose's son, Samuel.  Aged just 11 at the time, he was keen to get involved with his father's work.  This was also the trip that sparked Samuel's interest in the work that would eventually lead to him bringing the first optometry station to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic.   

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Samuel Rose, now a biology major at The University of Mississippi, went to Honduras on nine occasions during high school; helping his father and learning about optometry and missionary work for himself.  Samuel told us how important these trips were in shaping his future, explaining how “I developed a passion for mission work and helping people in poor areas.”  

However, Samuel also told us how when he started at college, he could no longer devote so much of his time to this work.  “I did not have time to go on mission trips and couldn't afford to miss so much class”, Samuel explained.  However, he was still keen to continue helping his father and using the optical machine to bring glasses to those in need.  Therefore, when a friend came back from a MEDLIFE trip just before Samuel was about to begin his junior year at college, he was excited to hear about what MEDLIFE had to offer and how he could get involved.  

Soon after starting his third year of college, Samuel signed up for his first MEDLIFE trip to Lima and he hasn't looked back since.  “Once I returned home I was quick to try to get involved [with MEDLIFE],” he said. “I was so happy to have found something to fill that absence I had had for so long.”  Samuel was soon asked to become president for the MEDLIFE chapter at his school and in this capacity got to work planning to bring his father's machine to set up an optical station at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic.  On his first phone call with MEDLIFE Volunteer Coordinator Kristine Paiste, he explained how he wanted to be able to set up this station.  MEDLIFE then started working to collaborate with Samuel and his chapter to make this happen.  

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“I've seen just how much glasses can change a person's life and I knew that I was capable of making this happen for MEDLIFE. Our chapter is young,” he said. “It was started in 2013 and I wanted to make a difference as the new president to show that leaps could be made even by a young chapter.”  Samuel set about contacting Holland Kendall, the engineer who had helped create the optical set-up.  They ran through the details of the machine and how to work it so that Samuel would be able to operate it on his own in Lima.  Samuel received a donation of 1000 pairs of glasses for the optometry station.   He measured each pair manually and then entered the data into his father's machine, corresponding each one with a number that matched the prescription.  He then spent $400 flying the machine and glasses out to Peru last week to be set up and used on the MEDLIFE clinic.  

Thanks to Samuel, we were able to have an optometry station present at 5 clinics last week alongside the usual dental, medical and OB stations.  With the help of an optometrist, Samuel was able to treat 257 patients across the week who had come from all over Lima's impoverished communities after hearing about this special clinic.  It was amazing to see these people being given their sight back.  There was a huge amount of gratitude from all who received glasses for MEDLIFE and Samuel's work.  “In this community people don't have glasses because they cost and we can't pay but now thanks to you they are free.  You have given us all back our sight” one man told us after being prescribed a pair of glasses by Samuel.  Another family were all given glasses and explained how much it would help them; “we are so happy and grateful to you all, this will make such a difference in our lives”.  

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When Samuel was explaining his work, he referenced back to the Gandhi quote that appears on the back of MEDLIFE t-shirts: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.  He told us how important this quote was to him and explained how it had been part of his motivation to get the optometry station to a MEDLIFE clinic.  “I know I can't change the whole world but I can change the way people see it.  Now 257 people see it differently. I did this because I was blessed with the opportunity to make someone's life better, I did this because I felt like God wanted me to be that change Gandhi talked about.”  Samuel also explained to us that these new glasses would not just affect these people's sight, but that he hoped it would be able to continue to make an impact in their lives long term.  Children will be able to get a better education as they will not be hindered by being unable to see what they are supposed to be reading or learning.  Adults will be able to do their jobs better without having to worry that their sight is letting them down.  Even MEDLIFE staff benefited from the clinic with some of our medical professionals visiting the station at the end of the day and receiving glasses they have been in need of for a long time.  

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Without Samuel's support and initiative, MEDLIFE would never have been able to get this station off the ground.  It was amazing to be able to bring optometry to our clinics and we hope it is something we will be able to expand upon in the future.  Samuel finished by telling us that he hopes for the same thing;“I hope it improves the quality of life that these wonderful people have because it's what they deserve. I'm honored that I was able to help make this happen with MEDLIFE and I hope I can figure out a way to provide this station on trips after I am gone.”  Seeing this kind of support from chapter members is hugely important for MEDLIFE and we hope that this collaboration and many others will continue into the future as MEDLIFE continues to expand.  

 You never know what you are going to find when you roll up to a new community with a bus full of medical supplies for a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic. This photo essay shows a collection of patients and their stories from a particularly eventful day in a rural community outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. 

1MEDLIFE begins patient intake at a church. Most people here either work in agriculture, or work peeling garlic brought in from elsewhere to be sold in local markets. This occupation can produce a host of fungus infections on the skin, which was treated at the clinic. 

2 The epileptic patient came in saying that her barbituate medication was no longer controlling her seizures. She had broken bones from falls during seizures in the past and her lips showed signs of damage from chewing during seizures.

3 She was only taking her medication some days once a day. It was determined her routine was not consistent enough to prevent the seizures, she was given more medication and told to take it twice per day every day, not only when she had seizures.

4Patient came in complaining of back pain. She took a big fall down a flight of stairs 25 years ago. This probably caused the Lumbar Lordosis that was visible in her posture, and causing her pain.

5She was given pain medication and taught some physical therapy excercises.

8 This man was brought in by his daughter because she was concerned he was taking too many barbituates, damaging his health and making him sedate. He had had an operation for cerebral edama, the build up of fluid in the brain, years earlier. After the surgery, he experienced severe pain in one side of his face which was neurological in origin. The barbituates were perscribed to alleviate the pain. He has since become addicted to the powerful narcotics. He was given other medication and his daughter was given instructions on how to ween him off the the excessive baribituate consumption.

 11Cecilia, a grade school teacher at the school where the clinic was held, brought in one of her students, Emiliy, because she knew Emily had been told she had a heart condition. Emily cannot participate in physical activity with the other kids at school.

10 Listening to her heart with the stethescope, a heart murmer could be heard. Emily has coronary heart disease, a birth defect of the heart that likely developed into a serious condition because of malnutrition. She was put into MEDLIFE patient followup care and will need to be taken to a specialist to find out what needs to be done.

14 This sick two month old was brought in by her mother with a peristant high fever.

17 After being examined by a doctor, it was determined she had an infection and was given Amoxicilin. Without access to antiobiotics, even a simply treated infection like this can become a serious threat to an infant's life.

13As the clinic wound down community members gathered around the sick infant and gave their support. The sense of community one can see here is part of what makes working in indigenous Andean communities so special.



18As people began to leave, the volcanoe Tungurahua erupted outside.

12 Here, you can see the mushroom cloud above the volcano. Though the eruption was not serious nor close enough to seriously harm the town, people began wondering whether or not it would begin raining ash again and cover everything in soot as it had the week before. They hoped it would not.

February 23, 2016 10:24 am

A Child's Perspective on Mobile Clinic

Written by Jake Kincaid


One day, when MEDLIFE photographer Edward Doherty was shooting photos at a Mobile Clinic, the two girls, Fernanda (six years old)  and Adriana (four years old) on the left shown above, became very interested in Ed's camera, so Ed decided to give them a photography class. They caught on quickly and gave us some great photos with a child's perspective on clinic. 

  Fernanda and Adriana are the grandchildren of MEDLIFE follow-up patient Carmen Castro. We are working to fundraise for a staircase project to Carmens home, so that Carmen and her family, these girls included, have safe access to their home.  


After a quick and very simple talk on framing, they stopped taking photos of the sky and ground and started taking photos of each other.







They then proceeded to document the clinic.


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They even began to experiment with advanced techniques like depth of field.

December 11, 2015 9:27 am

MEDLIFE Year in Review

Written by Jake Kincaid



 2015 was a great year for MEDLIFE, take a look at some of the many great things we were able to accomplish together this year! A huge thanks to all of our chapters, volunteers, donors the communities we work with, staff and everyone else who made this possible!


MEDLIFE completed the long-term Wawa Wasi project in Union Santa Fe.



MEDLIFE completed three house construction projects to get people out of unsafe and dismal homes like this one.

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And into nice homes like this one!


MEDLIFE supported and guided patients through 14 successful surgeries. In this photos Rodrigo is recovering from a cleft palate surgery.


The first meal being served at the comodor MEDLIFE constructed.


MEDLIFE nurses made 576 total home visits to the patients we found in clinics who most needed our help.


Collaborated with 27,122 beneficiaries on 60 development projects.


MEDLIFE saw 41,664 patients in 40 mobile clinics.

We have big plans for 2016, such as expanding our clinics to India and Nicaragua. In our pursuit of greater impact and further reach, we are committed to maintaining focus on the little things that make MEDLIFE great: listening to each and every patient's needs, helping them on their own terms and working hand in hand with them to move forward towards a better future.

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Changes to registration requirements now make it easier than ever to go on a volunteer trip, and gives you more flexibility to register earlier with less fear of trip cancellations!

Refundable Trip Deposit

We have now made the $200 deposit refundable! This allows volunteers to obtain a refund on their deposit up until the trip registration deadline (four weeks before the clinic start date). So register early and if a clinic gets cancelled or you can't go anymore, you can either be refunded the deposit or use it for a future trip.

New Trip Minimums

We have set new minimums of volunteers required to run the trips. These lower minimums allow you to confidently register for a mobile clinic with less fear of the trip being cancelled due to lack of participants - so no need to wait until the last minute for other volunteers to register first!

  • Trip minimums without a development project:
    • Lima: 15
    • Cusco: 20
    • Riobamba: 15
    • Tena:  20
    • Esmeraldas: 20
    • Moshi: 20
  • Trip minimums with a development project:
    • Lima:20
    • Cusco: 30
    • Riobamba: 20
    • Tena: 30
    • Esmeraldas: 30
    • Moshi: 30

Trips will be confirmed more easily and sooner, so you should jump on registration to reserve your spot! The sooner MEDLIFE is able to confirm a clinic, the sooner you can purchase airfare. Earlier trip confirmation will allow you to search and purchase flights further in advance, meaning that you will most likely find flights at an even cheaper prices than before!

REMINDER - A volunteer trip is confirmed once there are five more volunteers than the minimum signed up before the registration deadline or when the minimum is met by the registration deadline.

Start registering now! You can see our upcoming winter clinic trip dates and locations here -

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