A 21-member Vision Quest team, including seven Iolans, left for Chile just a couple days before Saturday’s massive 8.8 temblor shut airports to nonessential travelers.
The group, on a mission to spread better vision through inexpensive eye wear, landed at the airport in Santiago well before the catastrophic earthquake hit. They reached their destination, Castro, about 400 miles south of the nation’s capital without incident.
Angela Henry, daughter of Bob and Ginny Hawk, said she had been in contact with her parents over the weekend and that the Iolans were without fresh water in the community in which they are staying because of a broken water pipe, which may have been repaired by now.
There were no other consequences from the massive quake in Castro, on the island of Chiloe.
In addition to the Hawks, Jim and Karen Gilpin, Dr. Ellis and Jane Potter and Tom Brigham make up the Iola delegation to the 21-member Vision Quest team, which will spend the next week fitting eye glasses for impoverished residents who don’t have access to eye care.
The Hawks and Potters have gone on similar missions once or twice a year for many years. In addition to the Iola group, optometrists and other volunteers from several Kansas communities make up the total team. The Vision Quest project has been organized by the Iola Rotary Club and other Rotary clubs in the area and funded with contributions from a wide range of donors.
Henry said the team has already started seeing patients and will be working 10-hour days.
“The people come in from miles around in buses and many of them will wait patiently for hours until it is their turn to be examined and have spectacles made for them,” she said.
Chiloe Island, like most of Chile, has had experience with earthquakes and tsunamis in the past. In a 1960 quake, a tsunami wave washed over the island and did great damage. No such damaging wave accompanied Saturday’s earthquake, although it was one of the most violent ever recorded, and about 900 times stronger than the earthquake which devastated Haiti on Jan. 12.
An e-mail sent by Ginny Hawk Saturday said that she and her husband were awakened by the quake in the middle of the night.
“Our bed rolled for what seemed forever and we just stayed put, not knowing what else to do. The next shock came about one and a half hours later, but was not so strong.
“There was no power, telephone or Internet until midday Saturday, so our group was concerned about letting everyone at home know that we were O.K.
“ … the eye clinic will begin tomorrow at 8 a.m. with 300 people to be seen … It was good that we came a day early as the airports are now closed. It is beautiful here and everyone is well. Say a prayer for the Chileans.”
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