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In the mornings at the clinic Vincent Pescatore in San Benito, Petén, in northern Guatemala the people start lining up at 6 o’clock or earlier. They arrive by car, on foot, by motorcycle, by Tuk Tuk (3-wheeled taxis) and even by horse-drawn cart. They come here for eye care: exams, glasses and eye surgeries. This is a clinic run by the organization Visualiza, which has a large eye care clinic in Guatemala City.

The San Benito clinic sees only the poor. It’s the only social service eye clinic in this region of Guatemala and serves over 1 million people. They charge about $3.50 for an eye exam. Glasses cost $10 and up, and a cataract surgery costs $65. When people come from far away for surgeries, like our Ixcán patients do, they are given a free meal and a bed for the night.

For the people who live far away, the clinic regularly conducts outreach screenings and actively looks for those in need, to give them a chance for a higher quality of life with improved vision.

Counselors take time to answer all questions before surgery.

Counselors take time to answer all questions before surgery.

The staff is professional and gives much attention to patient education. Counselors make sure the patients have an understanding of their eye problems and they take time to answer all questions before surgery.

After surgery the education continues, making sure the patients understand the importance of cleanliness and the proper use of post-surgical eye drops. The surgical area is neat and clean and the doctors are well-trained and have years of experience. Outside it’s very hot with high humidity, but the clinic testing and treatment areas are air-conditioned.

The staff is dedicated. On days when they are extremely busy they have been known to work deep into the night, on one occasion not finishing all the day’s surgeries until three in the morning.

Petén is the part of Guatemala where the ancient ruins of Tikal are located and the Mayan people served by this clinic are fortunate for the beauty of their surroundings and the level of care offered by the Clinica de Ojos Vincent Pescatore.