Associate professor of special education Dr. Michelle McCollin recently went to Africa over winter break to donate prescription eyeglasses to the citizens in Nigeria as a part of her mission, “Eyes4Africa.”
McCollin said she decided to go to Nigeria because she is initiated in one of the traditional African spiritual practices in Nigeria and has was a spiritual connection to the country. She also said when she did her DNA testing, she found out that she is 87 percent African decent and more than 50 percent Nigerian.
McCollin first went to Nigeria in the summer of 2012, and has gone several times since then. At that time, she brought 40 pairs of eyeglasses with her.
“God laid on my heart and said to just bring some eyeglasses,” McCollin said. “I did some research and found that per capita, Nigeria has the highest rate of blindness in the world, and so, I decided to do the eyeglasses. I do readers, plus prescriptions.”
McCollin paid for all of the glasses herself the first time, but the second time around she started to ask for donations.
“My first year when I took down 40 pairs of glasses and I saw what a wonderful response it was, my second year, I took down 600 pairs of glasses, and then last summer, I took down 1,200,” McCollin said. “I held eye clinics for the indigenous people. I literally touched blindness and it brought tears to my eyes because some people didn’t even realize how blind they were.”
McCollin said since she is a person of service, a humanitarian and philanthropic by nature, the experience was more humbling than anything.
“Some of the children that I put eyeglasses on were finally able to read clearly,” McCollin said. “I could have cried.”
Aside from donating eyeglasses, McCollin also adopted schools and donated school supplies and school uniforms to the children of Nigeria as well. She said she got a call two weeks before she left America from one of her friends who lived in the villages in Nigeria who said there were 80 kids without shoes going to school. McCollin said after hearing about this, she took to Facebook and told her friends that she needed 80 pairs of shoes and 80 bookbags, and she received both in 10 days,
“I told them [friends] to empty their closets,” McCollin said. “I told one of my girlfriends to take pictures of her kids doing this because they are now participating in social action and humanitarian work. She emptied her kid’s closet and some of those shoes were Nike’s and brand new.”
McCollin said when she gave out the shoes and bookbags to the children, they came up to her and gave her silk flowers and sang and danced for her.
“Tears were just streaming from my eyes,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed that these children who had no shoes were performing for me because I brought them shoes.”
Over the past three years, McCollin has distributed 2,000 eyeglasses, conducted eye clinics and adopted 6 schools.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” McCollin said. “We have so much in excessive that we don’t even think about it. Imagine 100 U.S. dollars bought uniforms for 20 children. We blow 100 dollars on a hairstyle. So, I’m just taking the little of what we have in excess and to help someone else. “
McCollin said if students could take away three things from her volunteer work and donations, it would be to be courageous, to remember that the U.S. lives in a global village and that every little bit helps.
McCollins said she’ll be returning to Nigeria in the summer to team with the American Red Cross to do emergency preparedness workshops to teach the citizens of Nigeria how to deal with basic first aid and CPR.