Project Sekong 2014: Travelers who want to present a meaningful gift might consider reading glasses

February 9, 2014

In every village are people who need simple, discount store reading glasses. Often, an inexpensive pair of glasses will enable a seamstress to resume her career.

People traveling to Laos or other developing country often plan to present gifts in gratitude to hosts or to assist needy villagers.  I’ve found that reading glasses are an excellent gift—cheap to buy, light to carry and, potentially, life changing.  I buy pairs a dozen at a time at a discount store for less than two dollars each.

I frequently encounter villagers, mostly women, who have had to give up weaving, basketry or other crafts because their eyesight has failed with age.  It actually embarrasses me to have an elderly seamstress has thank me for restoring her vision and hence, her income, when all I’ve done is hand over a $1.99 pair of glasses.

Yesterday our Team Leader tumbled off a bank and landed face first in the mud.  He broke his glasses but, in typical Lao manner, came up smiling.  We all searched for a missing lens but eventually concluded that the Team Leader had probably stepped on it and driven it deep into the muck.  Like me, he has good distance vision but his arms are now too short to read printed matter.  I presented one of my gift pairs to him and he was quickly back to using his GPS unit to record data.  In his case, my gift was appreciated less for its monetary value than for sparing him a half-day car ride to the closest shop selling glasses.


When picking glasses to give as gifts, don’t give a second thought to fashion, and don’t worry about male versus female styling. Durability, not fashion, is the key!  Most “dollar” stores have unfashionable but sturdy cases for (guess!) a buck.

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