AMIGOS derives its name from the organization AMIGOS delas Americas (Friends of the Americas). This organization was originally founded in 1960 by a group of North Americans who were traveling to remote areas of Honduras. The mayor in one particular town said that the people of his village had never seen a doctor and that they had been “forgotten even by God”. The group of tourists felt that they could make a difference, so they set out to provide some type of health care to those remote areas. Since then, AMIGOS de las Americas has extended its humanitarian services to fourteen countries. Currently, volunteer projects for teens are the primary focus of the group.
AMIGOS de las Americas at Pacific University’s College of Optometry
Most eye care missions consisted of teams of one or two optometry students and several high school students. The optometry students would provide eye exams, while the high school students would help with paper work and dispensing. Generally, the interns would spend one month traveling from village to village. In preparation for a typical mission, 1000 – 3000 pairs of eyeglasses would be verified and transported to the foreign country. In the clinic over a one month period, 750 – 1000 patients in the various towns would be examined.
Eye care missions during the late 1970’s included trips to: Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Due to the specialized service that these trips provided, AMIGOS at Pacific University required its own leadership and bylaws as the program grew. Due to this indepedent leadership, over time AMIGOS at Pacific University became less closely affiliated with AMIGOS de las Americas.
The 1980’s and 1990’s
Prior to 1985, AMIGOS visited Mulege, Baja, Mexico and the Fiji Islands. In 1988, the group went on another eye care mission to Fiji. In 1989, AMIGOS again went to Mulege.
January of 1990 saw AMIGOS travel with I Care International to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. They combined forces with I Care International a second time during March of 1991, examining 4,000 patients in Cuenca, Ecuador. I Care International brought along 100,000 pairs of recycled eyeglasses for that mission
Current Affiliation Status
In 2006, AMIGOS Eye Care changed its name to AMIGOS Eye Care/PUCO Student VOSH. The purpose of this change was to align Pacific University with the other colleges of optometry that provide free eye care serves to the underprivileged. Most of them are recognized by S.V.O.S.H. (Student Volunteer Optometrists Serving Humanity).
A similar organization at the University of Houston’s College of Optometry is the only other university which recognizes its group by the name AMIGOS. Both the Houston group and the group at Pacific University obtained their name through initial affiliations with AMIGOS de las Americas; however, there is no official connection between AMIGOS at Pacific University and AMIGOS at the University of Houston, although they share a common purpose.
Today, AMIGOS at Pacific University maintains no connection with its original parent organization, AMIGOS de las Americas. This lack of contact is not due to a soured relationship; rather the AMIGOS at Pacific have become more autonomous from AMIGOS de las Americas and have become more connected with V.O.S.H. All of these groups continue to serve the underprivileged of the world in their own respective ways.