At the age of 10, Coventry High School senior Jason Hoskins saw extreme poverty for the first time and was forever changed by it.
Now, as college interviews and applications loom ahead, he’s about to be able to do something about it.
“We had traveled to Mexico when I was younger, and until then I hadn’t ever seen poverty like what I saw there,” Hoskins said. “I never forgot it, and from that point on, I knew I wanted to do some kind of mission trip to help people. A while later, I was talking to my uncle about it, and he told me that he had just done a mission trip to the community of Maimon in the Dominican Republic, and he had some connections there. Together, we started to plan out a different sort of mission trip.”
What Hoskins and his uncle Alexander Incera envisioned was a trip that would help those in need of vision screening and vision correction, something often out of reach for many due to the cost of the equipment and doctor visits. Incera is president of Coburn Technologies, a company that focuses on ophthalmic equipment and services for all phases of lens production.
A year ago, Hoskins began to map out a plan for the trip, dubbed Vision DR – a five-day visit to the Spanish-speaking community to provide the screenings and corrective lenses. He began to gather volunteers, including doctors and others interested in making a difference by donating their time or equipment.
“Our goal is to provide vision care and eyeglasses to approximately 280 individuals over a three-day period,” Hoskins said. “We have the support of a number of companies and organizations that have donated to this cause, including Alcon and Allergan for medications, Caritas/The Diocese of Puerto Plata helping out with logistics, Coburn Technologies donating equipment, Latam/International Optica donating lenses, and OneSight/Luxottica donating frames.”
Cameron Macomber, a senior at Cranston High School West, has been friends with Hoskins since before they were in elementary school. Their mothers knew each other early on as colleagues in the Coventry school department.
“I had been to the Dominican Republic in August through Rustic Pathways, as an introduction to public health, which is an area I’d like to get into for a career, and I toured hospitals and non-profits,” she said. “I was home for three days and I already wanted to go back, I loved it so much. I built latrines, I laid cement floors. I loved the people, the children – it was all I could think about. I still send blankets down there that I sew myself, I’m actually about to send another package down. I told my mom that I had heard about the trip Jason was planning. It was exactly what I love to do, and I asked her if he needed volunteers. She said she’d find out.”
Soon after, Macomber and Hoskins were planning the mission trip together.
The two were able to gather together a volunteer crew of doctors and others willing to make the trip.
“Currently, our list of volunteers include Dr. Anshu Chandra, Dr. Jennifer Cramer, Lory Fitzgerald, Alexander Incera, William Incera, Jerzy Krzyzanowski, Elzbieta Krzyzanowski, Carmen Robichaud, Father Ryszard Sliwinski, Krystyna Stefanko, Kang Jung Yun, Cameron, and myself,” Hoskins said.
The group will spend a day to acclimate and train, three days seeing 80 people per day for vision screenings, a half a day seeing 40 people for screenings, and then use the remainder of the time to clean up and break down their stations before wrapping up their whirlwind trip. Hoskins has provided all participants with a flow chart of the rotations and schedule for each day.
The trip will be taking place from Oct. 22-29, just two days before college applications begin to be due, and Macomber and Hoskins are now full speed ahead with the final stages of their Vision DR planning. The current focus is hosting a successful fundraiser in Cranston on Oct. 2 in order to raise the funds needed to fly the doctors and equipment to the Dominican Republic for the week.
“We need to raise a few thousand dollars,” Macomber said. “We thought that a ‘Patriots and Pasta’ event would be great. We’ll start at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 2. We’ll have the Patriots game on TV at the VFW Hall [Mike’s Kitchen] in Cranston, and we’ll be doing a 50/50 raffle, as well as raffling off prizes which we’re in the process of getting from local community businesses.
Macomber and Hoskins said because they are not a formal non-profit organization, many have turned them down because their donations can’t be used as a tax deduction. However, that hasn’t stopped them, and they’ve already been able to get a few vendors to donate, including The English Muffin, Sweenor’s, and Oaklawn Car Wash. They’re hoping that many others will follow suit in order to ensure a successful event. The two are also looking for local grocery stores to donate gift cards that can be used to purchase pasta, sauce, soft drinks, and other items for the pasta night.
They also set up a GoFundMe page, in case people can’t attend the event but want to donate. It can be found at gofundme.com/visiondr.
“We’re really hoping for a successful fundraiser. Everyone and anyone is welcome to attend,” Macomber said. “This isn’t something we’re doing because it can go on a college application. We’re both doing this because we love it, we find joy in it. We’re two teenagers running this trip because it’s what we love to do, and because we want to make a difference.”
Both Hoskins and Macomber hope to pursue medical careers in the future. Hoskins hopes to be a surgeon, and Macomber hopes to get into the area of pediatrics and public health.
Tickets for the Vision DR Oct. 2 “Patriots and Pasta” event are available in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The prices are $10 for kids 10 and under and $15 for adults. Tickets will also be available at the door. Donations can be made at the GoFundMe page, through the email, or at the event itself. 1