Glenda Chen Pasadena Host Lions Club, South Pasadena, California Princeton University freshman Glenda Chen, 19, shipped 2,500 pairs of eyeglasses from South Pasadena to Paraguay in a “gap year” between high school and college, then travelled to the South American country to help the Asuncion Kaaguy Rory Lions disperse them. Glenda Chen stands proudly in front of the Lions’ float at the Rose Parade in California. Why Paraguay? I wanted to go to South America, and I had two requirements. I wanted to live with a host family and to go to a place where I would have meaningful work to do. How did the trip originate? I helped host the people of Paraguay and Morocco for the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, and I noticed one of the coaches was wearing a Lions pin. Later the coach invited me to come to Paraguay. Did you prepare the glasses? My parents and I had to clean, repair and screen each pair, print the prescription to attach to the glasses, and then sort them— 2,500 of them. Sorting takes a lot of space. My parents are always willing to help, but at the end of the project I think my mom’s motivation was to get this stuff out of her living room. Did you take the glasses with you? No. It took me 24 hours to fly. The glasses were shipped by ocean freight, and seasonal floods delayed their arrival two weeks. One box costs $1,000 by air, and we had 10 boxes. So they went by boat. How were you welcomed? They had a big barbecue. Their beef is the best beef in the world. But they were expecting to meet a 50- to 70-year-old lady. Then I showed up. What did you like most about Paraguay? Nature. Everything is green. But it’s very humid, which makes it physically miserable because the humidity makes it feel even hotter than it is. One hundred degree days are common. But the country is beautiful. How did you contribute? We had four vision screenings for children, but parents and teachers were also allowed to have screenings. The adults were really grateful. I think I was able to give them a snapshot of a different culture, to also share my Taiwanese heritage. Because of the lack of Leo programs there it was new for the adult Lions to see the ways a young person is willing and interested in helping. Will you go back? I will, or there will be a lot of people mad at me. This trip gave me the chance to meet a lot of people, and, of course, there is that fulfilling-feeling. I like to think of it less as me helping people and more as “let’s see if I can be useful and work with them.” I came back with a much different perspective and a lot less fear. Do you know a Lion who you think has a great story or deserves a bit of recognition? Email us a brief description of the Lion and the reason you’re making the nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “One of Us” in the subject line.
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