St. Viator student sees her mission clearly

 
 
  • Founding member Maeve Tibbetts mans EYEsee's table during the collection drive at Holy Family Church, Inverness March 14 and 15.

    Founding member Maeve Tibbetts mans EYEsee's table during the collection drive at Holy Family Church, Inverness March 14 and 15.

  • From left, volunteers Abby Moynihan, Joey Rusch, Rebecca Moynihan, and Janice Guzon, EYEsee founder.

    From left, volunteers Abby Moynihan, Joey Rusch, Rebecca Moynihan, and Janice Guzon, EYEsee founder.

Published: 3/30/2009 12:12 AM

When St. Viator High School junior Janice Guzon established that folks trash 4 million pairs of spectacles each year, she initiated an eyeglasses recycling project to help alleviate world poverty.

The enterprising student founded EYEsee: Vision for the World, a service organization "committed to fighting poverty with recycled eyeglasses" for folks so poor the outlay is equal to a year's wages. With a March 14 -15 visit to Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness, the total collected hit nearly 5,000.

Last summer's leisure reading of Time magazine opened her eyes to the plight of the poor.

"I noticed from the photos that few African, Asian or Latin American people wore glasses," Guzon said. "Initially, I thought they simply have healthier eyes but found that of 153 million people who have eyesight problems, 138 million live in those poorer countries."

Her research showed that eyeglasses could correct millions of vision problems, but that many of the poorest people in the world can't afford even a simple pair.

And yet, 97 percent of unused eyeglasses in the U.S. remain uncollected.

"That is just too high a number to ignore in the context of the desperate need in many parts of the world," she said.

Last summer, Guzon, 16, recruited Elizabeth Chin, twins Maeve and Hannah Tibbetts and Prospect High School student Rachel Conrad to launch EYEsee. Together they made their pleas to Northwest suburban churches. Other students joined, and St. Viator's Campus Ministry credits those hours as service to the poor and marginalized.

Guzon said the drive will benefit the poor in Haiti, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the West Bank and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Guzon is the daughter of Ben and Alice Guzon of Hoffman Estates and a 2006 graduate of St. Hubert Catholic School. After high school she plans to study theology and philosophy and ultimately be a college professor.

EYEsee has partnered with EyeCare WeCare Foundation Inc., Physicians for Peace, Canvasback Mission Inc. and Caritas Goma.

Guzon, editor of the school yearbook and a staff writer for "Viator Voice," also designs, composes and produces an EYEsee newsletter. Among the group's board of advisers is the president of St. Viator High School the Rev. Mick Egan C.S.V., who says he is proud of Guzon.

"She saw a need and with her classmates established EYEsee to help the needy and poor," Egan said. "That is a wonderful example of our St. Viator students reaching out to the wider world to bring Gospel values to the service and ministry they embraced."

EYEsee used glasses collection dates

April 4-5: St. Emily Catholic Church, 1400 E. Central Road, Mount Prospect.

April 18-19: St. Anne Catholic Church, 120 N. Ela St., Barrington.

April 25-26: St. Thomas Becket Catholic Church, 1321 N. Burning Bush Lane, Mount Prospect.

May 9: Addolorata Villa, 555 McHenry Road, Wheeling.

May 23, 24 and 26: St. Theresa Catholic Church: 455 N. Benton St., Palatine.