Local delivers reading glasses on trip overseas | TheUnion.com

Local delivers reading glasses on trip overseas

Pouring a cup of Chinese “pure tea,” Ginny Woods vividly depicted her two-and-a half-week adventure delivering eye glasses to remote villages in southwest China.

The 30-year area resident has been traveling to China since 2000. Her Grass Valley home is a shrine to her many journeys to the Middle Kingdom. A practice in traditional Chinese medical massage and passion for Asian culture has led her to take students to study in China.

“Last year, I decided to take a personal trip to Lijiang,” Woods said, retrieving pictures from her pilgrimage. “The region was only first discovered in 1998.”

The city of Lijiang (pronounced lee-ZHONG) lies in China’s Yunnan Province. It is one of the few cities in the world with a population of more than one million at an elevation of more than a mile above sea level. The city and surrounding villages are home to the Naxi, who are a minority people in China, but flourish in this city whose old quarter was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

“It was like going home,” Woods said, sipping tea. “I met incredibly warm people and a lot of villagers.”

Shortly after returning home from her voyage, Woods realized she needed to return to the remote city.

“I took photos last year, and when I got home, I was looking through all these pictures of villages full of old men and women. I realized that none of them had glasses,” said Woods, who has been a nurse for 40 years.

With a group of two physicians, their young daughter and a translator, Woods returned to aid those in need.

“The Naxi village we went to had only seen two white people before us,” Woods said pointing to a photo of a red dirt road lined with small, windowless huts. “These people are farmers, so they’re exceptionally poor. They’ve never had eyeglasses. They didn’t even know how to use them. One woman tried putting the pieces that curve behind your ears in her ears. I had to pull them out for her and adjust the glasses.”

In order to find a suitable pair of glasses for each villager, Woods and her crew sorted through the medley of eye wear they brought with them until they found a match.

“After we found a pair that fit this man, he walked away crying,” Woods said. “As we wondered through the village, more and more people were given glasses. They were all so happy and so humble. (The glasses) will be treasures. A lot of people said they put them on the altars at home or in a special treasure place when not in use.

“One woman in particular was known as the ‘crazy blind lady’ by villagers because she couldn’t see,” Woods said. “But when we put glasses on her, she could see. The villagers were amazed. They kept going over to her and saying ‘Can you see me? Can you see me?'”

With a demand for eyeglasses so high and supplies limited, Woods was unable to help everyone she came across.

“Here I am making a pinky-promise that I will bring back glasses for this woman in September,” Woods said brushing away tears. “She just wants to be able to see before she dies.”

Woods plans to return to the isolated village in mid-September this year.

“I’m making plans to live there in the spring so that I can be the connection between this village and their village,” Woods said.

Along with more eye wear, Woods also hopes to bring with her school supplies, tennis balls and money.

“These kids have nothing, and using a tennis ball doesn’t need a battery and it doesn’t leave trash,” Woods said. “What I want to do is sell these handmade Pumi blankets (made by another Chinese minority group), with 100% of the commission going to the village.”


To contact Staff Writer Lindsey Croft, e-mail lindseyc@theunion.com or call 477-4247.

For more information on how to donate eyeglasses, school supplies or other items, contact Ginny Woods at 478-9335.

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