Tony McAleer is an ORBIS volunteer faculty member and a Clinical Specialist Orthoptist at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin. He participated in the 2012 Great Ethiopian Run with ORBIS.
I was offered the chance to take part in an ORBIS pediatric ophthalmology hospital-based program (HBP) in Hawassa, Ethiopia alongside Mr. Donal Brosnahan, ophthalmologist and long-time VF with a special interest in Ethiopia. Our team was completed by Mr. Jonathan Lord, Anaesthetist, and Liz Agbor-Tabi, Senior Manager, Clinical Services with ORBIS International in New York. The focus of the HBP was on strabismus and pediatric cataract. My role involved the identification and assessment of potential surgical cases, and also teaching the local ophthalmologists, ophthalmic nurses and optometry students from the University of Hawassa.
After four long but very enjoyable days in Hawassa we returned to Addis for a teaching session with ophthalmology residents at Menelik II hospital. After, we were joined by the 40 member Great Ethiopian Run team from ORBIS Ireland who had arrived in Addis a few hours earlier and were visiting to learn how their hard earned funds are used. Friday evening saw Ethiopian dancing and a social evening which lasted into the early hours of Saturday, which was a relaxing day, the highlight of which was meeting Haile Gebrselassie at the pre-run pasta party.Sunday morning saw us congregate in Meskel Square with the other 36,000 runners, an amazing experience of noise and camaraderie which will remain with me forever. This sense of fun continued right through the run, with bands playing almost every kilometre, attracting the less serious runners to stop running and start dancing. Despite being a resolutely non-competitive participant, there was an enormous sense of achievement in completing the run and being a part of such a huge event.
As someone who had never been to this region, never mind Ethiopia, I had many preconceptions of what lay ahead, and approached the trip with both excitement and trepidation. I can only say that I was hugely encouraged by what I encountered. I would highly recommend both the run itself as a wonderful event and the weekend in Addis with the ORBIS Ireland gang as a hugely enjoyable experience and I can’t wait for this year’s trip.
To learn more about ORBIS Ireland and how you could participate in this year's Great Ethiopian Run visit: www.orbisireland.ie/Greatethiopianrun