Helping People See: Kim Bugera among International Women’s Day award winners

by Lucie Roy

Dr. Kim Bugera, along with her husband Dr. Peter Laansoo, children, her parents, friends and associates from Capital Vision Care, attended the International Women’s Day event sponsored by the Baha’i Community of St. Albert on Saturday.

Bugera was one of the honourees and recipients of the award for Vision Health, Humanitarian and Education.

Bugera was recognized for having served humanity for over 20 years by providing 5-day Optometry clinics in many disadvantaged countries, such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Kenya, Peru, Dominica, Malawi, and Tanzania.

When she organizes her clinic with a team of 30 people, her husband, who is also an optometrist and the children are also a part of the team.

Serving to humanity is important to the family and together, they travel with the team to many remote places at their own expense to help others, often helping 300 to 500 people a day, 80 per cent of which are children.

In December 2017, Bugera helped train students at the Mzuzu University Optometry program in Malawi.

The optometry students, with the assistance of Bugera and Canadian Vision Care, provide free exams to hundreds of patients, many of whom had to walk for miles to see her and her colleagues.

Upon graduating, these new doctors continue to travel to remote areas and use their skills to help the villagers.

Finances prove to be challenging, and many optometry students in Malawi had to drop out due to the lack of financial support and resources.

Since Malawi needs trained optometrists, Bugera and her husband have spearheaded a Go Fund Me Campaign to provide an annual bursary to a deserving student enrolled in the Mzuzu University Optometry Program.

At home, Bugera and associates from Capital Vision Care provide their services at an optometry clinic at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre to help those less fortunate in downtown Edmonton.

Bugera also serves as the Canadian Association of Optometry Council member for Alberta.

After the presentation, Bugera took the opportunity to say a few words.

“Wow, thank you very much for the acknowledgment today, it is truly an honour to be recognized tonight among these inspiring ladies,” she said. “It is nice to see our friends and supporters from the community here to celebrate this day, to celebrate with us.”

“Aren’t we lucky that we live in a great community like St. Albert, Sturgeon County and Morinville. Aren’t we lucky that if we have problems with our health or our vision that we can find access to care down the street in our community and that we can easily find solutions to our problems and can afford to do it.”

“This above all is the one that has driven me, what I do, and what I am being recognized for tonight. As fortunate as we are, there are so many people who do not share these advantages and these privileges that we have living in Canada, living in St Albert.

Bugera went on to say people of all ages around the world live with poor access to health care, in poverty or without the necessities. She includes vision care in that grouping.

“It is impossible to drive to school or do your job or live your best life if you do not have needed access to vision care,” Bugera said.

In her summary, Bugera said as the imbalance remains in the world, there is still work to be done. “I will continue to do it and continue to pursue this passion of vision outreach, teaching and equipping the world to bridge this gap.

“We all have the capacity to give so much more to the world and if any of you have ever wanted to become involved in a project like this, and you don;t know how or where to begin, we are embarking on another trip to Ecuador with the family and members from the University of Waterloo and University of Montreal.”

The initiative is in need of glasses and also sunglasses, the latter because people in these countries have massive cataracts, an eye disease from exposure to the sun because they do not wear protection and cannot afford sunglasses. Sunglasses can help prevent their cataracts from advancing until surgery can be done.

Used or new glasses and sunglasses can be dropped off at the St. Albert Rotary Club, Capital Vision Care, at drop-off boxes for glasses or contact the Lions Club of Morinville.

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