Blog submitted by Perry Athanason
Perry Athanason is the Communications Manager on the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital and has been a member of the crew since November 2007.
World Sight Day is an international day of recognizing preventable blindness issues worldwide. However, ORBIS has taken this opportunity to promote this event not just for one day, but throughout a 4 week skills exchange campaign through two countries, India and Bangladesh, and going forward in all its program locations in 2010.
In India, we worked with our long-time global sponsor, Alcon, to deliver our Flying Eye Hospital program and to launch the ORBIS EyeReports (www.orbis-eyereport.org). We continued this relationship into Bangladesh as we promoted and raised awareness for World Sight Day. If you have not already, I encourage you to take a look at this new and exciting social networking project. I also encourage you to view the original site, which includes more than one hour of ORBIS EyeReport footage dating back from July 2009 (www.qik.com/orbis-eyereport) and includes EyeReports for all markets.
On the Flying Eye Hospital, our WSD campaign consisted of several components and activities targeting the global, national and community level: ORBIS EyeReports with Alcon from India and Bangladesh, special visit to the Flying Eye Hospital from the Women’s Asia University in Chittagong, a rural screening in Bangladesh targeting women and young girls for a comprehensive screening, distributed reading and sunglasses to three urban project partners in Bangladesh and a participated in a summit meeting of policymakers and organizations dedicated to maturing the current system of eye health care in the country.
In Asia, the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan staff launched similar campaigns utilizing the ORBIS EyeReports made specifically for their markets. Take a look at Taiwan’s “Action Blue” (http://www.actionblue.org.tw and Hong Kong’s “What’s New f or World Sight Day” campaigns (http://www.orbis.org.hk/Default.aspx?cid=8499&lang=1).
ORBIS Canada is also utilizing the EyeReport campaign for its “Canada Week” special, which takes place during week 2 of the Bangladesh Flying Eye Hospital program. You can view these specially promoted Canadian EyeReports on the qik.com site address above.
ORBIS was at the heart of each of these campaigns and continues to inspire the dedication of our partners and our beneficiaries. I hope each of you is as proud as I am to be involved in ORBIS’ worldwide impact – together we are ONE ORBIS!
Helping Those To See Better With the Help of One Young Girl
Megan Day is a 17 year-old girl from Tucson, Arizona who wanted to make a change in the lives of thousands by helping them see much better than before. To tackle the statistics that made Megan hang her head in despair, she created the ICU2 project, which aims to distribute much needed eye wear in emerging nations globally. Megan reached out to the Lions Club in her district with the idea of collecting glasses and shipping them around the world. The ICU2 project has provided glasses to refugees in the Republic of Georgia and the citizens of Egypt and Afghanistan. When hearing about ORBIS and our work, Megan found a new adversary in the fight against avoidable blindness and low vision. She contacted ORBIS and agreed to provide us with 500 reading and sunglasses for distribution to women and young girls in her support of World Sight Day’s theme: Gender and Eye care. Those glasses, along with donations from the ORBIS UK office, were equally distributed among three urban project areas managed by the ORBIS Bangladesh team.
A Promise of Advocacy and Community Care for 2010
Once again, the Flying Eye Hospital staff reached out beyond the plane and the local hospital to raise the awareness of avoidable blindness and offer eye care screening to help those who are not able to travel…this time, in support of World Sight Day’s theme: Gender and Eye care.
“Please include us in every outreach program you plan from here on out.” These words from staff nurse, Jin Sook, as we left this outreach program made my heart grow greater than the Grinch’s when hearing the Who’s sing in Who-ville after he stole their Christmas. It was the first time the staff nurses from ORBIS joined me in the field for a community outreach program and I could not have imagined the success of the program without them. Together with our two associate ophthalmologists, Drs Vivian Yin and Sylvia Chen, Gavin with his trusty cameras and the ORBIS nurses (Jin Sook, Jackie, Beverly and Rajan – sounds like a family of Whos), we traveled nearly 3 hours to a remote village named, not Who-ville, but Katachara. This small village, approximately 75 kilometers from Chittagong, surrounded by rice-fields, palm trees and swamps is home to hundreds of Bengali people who barely have access to healthcare, much less eye health care. During the screening, we met nearly 150 people all ages and genders that had never received a comprehensive eye examination. As the constant rain pinged the tin roof building, we examined the patients for low vision, eye pressure, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, we distributed sunglasses for protection against the severe elements they face (mostly farmers and field workers who are heavily exposed to the sun and run a greater risk of traumatic injury to their eyes) and gave teddy bears to the children – two things that were definitely not the norm in this tiny village. In partnership with our host hospital, Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Complex, I am pleased to say that those patients in dire need of eye care services (the many with cataracts) will receive the needed follow-up treatment gratis.
We have been conducting these outreach programs since the beginning of the year and we have made it a standard segment of the Flying Eye Hospital program – a segment that has my personal promise and dedication to continue throughout the 2010 program year and another way that ORBIS plans to promote World Sight Day, not only for one day out of the year, but carried through and sustained for all programs going forward. Each outreach has the ability to highlight one, or several, common eye diseases, make way for collaboration with other eye care organizations and groups working on the front lines, and garner more attention with the media and local governments as we continue to educate the public and advocate for stronger policies in eye health for the people.
Sustainability is at the heart of what we do and it is no different with promoting Gender and Eye care as the theme for all our community outreach programs in 2010. I hope you will continue to monitor the ORBIS EyeReport website to see clips of all our outreach programs in the coming year and from varying locations.
Photos by Perry Athanason