the crystal foundation
Opening The Eyes Of Mexico The Crystal Foundation Mission
In most of the small villages in Mexico, the people live off the land and have no access to quality medical care.
Though it’s hard for most of us to imagine, think for a moment what life would be like without access to quality medical care. Living with pain and disease is a way of life for people in many countries, and one of our closest neighbors, Mexico, is wrought with some of the worst poverty and scarcity in the world.
To help improve the quality of life for a small village in the Copper Canyon Region of Mexico, Rotarian Walter Branson, physicians, surgeons, and a host of volunteers donate time each year to travel to Guerrero, Chihuahua, Mexico to provide much needed medical services to those less fortunate.
The Crystal Foundation, a non-profit corporation, was formed by Dr. R. Scott Yarish, a plastic surgeon from Lake Jackson, Texas, after he made several mission trips to Mexico. Through a grant from Rotary International and a lot of help, Dr. Tom Pruett built a mobile surgery center – a camper pulled by a box truck – which served to carry supplies and provide a recovery room.
For several years they drove around the mountainous villages, using donated equipment and a host of volunteer doctors and assistants. The Mexican people offered homes for them to stay in, with some of them being converted into makeshift operating rooms to accommodate the masses of people waiting for medical care.
“We consistently have lines of over 100 people waiting to see our doctors,” Walter says. “Some of them walk for over 20 miles in hundred degree heat and wait for days to have surgery.”
The majority of the people served by the Crystal Foundation have eye problems – mostly cataracts. “There is a large incident of cataracts in this region,” Walter says. “No one really knows why. Many of these people are nearly blind when they come to us. When they leave, they can see again for the first time in 10 – 15 years.”
Dr. Clariday became involved with the Crystal Foundation in the spring of 2003. “I was really looking for some way to give and to be of some help,” he says. “When I found the Crystal Foundation it was the answer to my prayers.”
Dr. Clariday is now the Head of Ophthalmology for the missions to Mexico. A typical trip involves about 50-60 people: Four ophthalmologists, (two Americans and two Mexicans), eight optometrists, two dentists, two opticians, nurses, and volunteers, including Dr. Clariday’s staff. Each doctor typically performs 30-40 procedures every day during their weeklong visit. Everyone gives freely of their own time and talent, but the rewards are great. Though they don’t make any money for their services, they receive something even better. Dr. Clariday (left) and a host of physicians, medical staff and volunteers can serve over 2,500 patients in a typical mission trip.
“If you go to the clinic one time, you’ll understand,” Walter says. “The appreciation of these people, who have nothing, is amazing. There are no real barriers between us and them. We overcome language and culture with the love that they feel and express to us. This is the true meaning of love and it makes me want to give more and more and to work with these people again and again.”
The majority of the volunteers keep going back, saying it touches their hearts in a way they can’t explain with words. “This clinic has brought tears to my eyes so many times,” Walter says. “And I’m not an emotional guy!”
When the mobile trailer and the box truck finally fell apart, the Crystal Foundation found a way, through generous donations and gifts, to build the facility they have today. The Guerrero Surgery and Education Center is a 7,000 square foot building that offers eye exams and surgical procedures, glasses, general medicine and dentistry. Over $2,000,000 a year in free medical services are provided.
This Rotary service has grown tremendously since its beginnings, and has now been joined by other Rotary Districts throughout the U.S. and Mexico. The Secretary of Health in the State of Chihuahua says that these clinics provide over sixty percent of the indigent care for the State of Chihuahua. Over 2,500 patients are served in an average four-day clinic.
Though many are served, many are turned away. The Crystal Foundation relies on generous donations of time, talent, medical supplies, and money to continue its missions in Mexico.
If you would like to be a part of the good works of this committed group, contact Walter Branson, Vice President of the Crystal Foundation at: