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HomemifeatureThe Challenge of Brotherly Love

The Challenge of Brotherly Love

Every year Optometry Giving Sight works with the optical industry and customers to raise funds that restore vision for people in developing nations. In doing so, the group has made a significant difference to the lives of thousands of people this year alone, as Jo Humphries reports.

How is it December already? It seems that everyone I speak to agrees that 2010 has flown by. So in the past 11 months what has happened in the world of Optometry Giving Sight? In a nutshell, lots! Thanks to the support of optometrists, the optometric industry and optometry students, we have committed funding to 18 programs, including new projects in China, Eritrea and Mexico. One project that we have continued to fund is based in Sumba, an Indonesian island.

A Story From Sumba

Peter Lewis, from Lewis and McConnell in Victoria, has volunteered with the ProVision Optometry Teams nine times over the past few years, mainly in East Timor. In September this year, he returned to Sumba for the fourth time, accompanied by fellow Victorian Norm Russo, from Russo and Associates.

Two young brothers had heard about the optometrists and, together with a third passenger, squeezed on board a motorbike taxi for the 40 minute journey, along poor roads, to Waikabubak Sumba Hospital. Their family paid 20,000 RP (AUD$2) each for the journey – about a day’s income.

Stories like this send a shiver up my spine. Suddenly these three brothers’ futures look brighter

When Norm Russo examined Susanto, aged 14, he discovered he was R -7.50 / -1.00 x 20, L – 11.00. Essentially, he could see clearly up to 12cm in front of him with his right eye and just 9cm with his left eye. His 10-year-old brother, Rivaldo, could see even less, with a prescription of R -8.00 / -3.00 x 110, L -8.00, he couldn’t see clearly more than nine or 10cm away.

The team discovered that the boys had a third brother who also could not see well, and asked for him to visit the clinic as well. When 13-year-old Victor arrived, the optometrists discovered he had the best vision of the three brothers – but still he could only see clearly 20cm (-5D) in front of him.

The brothers were all functionally blind and had spent their childhood living in a dense fog. They hadn’t been able to see at school or play football with their classmates – everyday tasks were a huge challenge. Incredibly, three pairs of glasses completely transformed three young lives. As the optometrists placed their new glasses on their faces, the boys’ world opened up. Their eyes lit up as they saw the other side of the room clearly for the first time.

Stories like this send a shiver up my spine. Suddenly these three brothers’ futures look brighter. They will be able to see what their teacher is writing on the chalkboard. As they leave school and begin their working life, their choices will be so much greater. Instead of being dependent on others, they will be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Funds to Transform Lives

Lives are transformed every day through all the programs funded by Optometry Giving Sight. As well as delivering eye exams and glasses, funding is concentrated on programs that train local eye care professionals and that develop infrastructure, such as vision centres and schools of optometry.

Optometrists around Australia continue to financially support Optometry Giving Sight fundraising campaigns. Many embraced the ‘Say YEStoday for a better tomorrow’ campaign at the beginning of the year. Seeing the urgent need for funds, optometrists made donations and placed the Vision Centre poster in their practices, encouraging patients to donate as well.

“The poster was a great way to engage our patients,” commented Bob Lees from Lees and Henschell and Chair of the Optometry Giving Sight National Committee.

“They were happy to donate AUD$5 and place their personalised ‘brick’ on the Vision Centre image. It helped them to feel that their donation was really part of something important.”

The OAA national and state divisions continued their support, providing complimentary stands and fundraising at conferences, space in their publications and by encouraging their members to ‘Tick Yes’ on their subscription notices. NSW optometrists led the way, raising an impressive AUD$39,750. Ciba Vision provided an additional incentive, by matching donations made at conferences.

Golf is a popular hobby in the optometry world and the Golf Days at Yarra Yarra in Victoria and Moss Vale in New South Wales provide a fantastic opportunity for a little indulgence while fund raising. Peter Lewis and Tim McKinnon from Eyecare Plus Moss Vale, Andrew Mrakovcic from Hoya and many others did a wonderful job in organising events that raised more than AUD$10,000.

Many of our friends in the optometry industry support the golf days, and provide funding as Corporate Sponsors. In particular, Ciba Vision and the Brien Holden Vision Institute continue their significant funding as Global Founding Patrons. In Australia specifically, Platinum Sponsors: Essilor and AMO continued to support us for another year.

World Sight Day Challenge

October marked the fourth annual World Sight Day Challenge, with a record number of participants, including non-aligned optometrists and practices as well as those from ProVision, Eyecare Plus, Eyecare Partners and Specsavers.

For World Sight Day Challenge Ambassador, cricket legend and optometrist Geoff Lawson, it was inspiring to see so many optometrists get behind the Challenge.

“Each year more people get involved and more money is raised. Everyone I have spoken to enjoys taking part so it’s a win-win situation.”

Geoff and singer/songwriter and optometrist, Sophie Koh, again helped to raise awareness of the cause by speaking with optometrists, the trade and mainstream media.

As well as involvement from optometrists, their practices, patients and staff, the optometric companies also have shown considerable support. National Gold Sponsor, General Optical raised an impressive $8,765. Managing Director, Jonathon Lewis and the GenOp team added more than $6,700 to that total by cycling 210km in Victoria’s ‘Around the Bay in a Day’ event. National Silver Sponsors, Hoya, Mimo and Transitions, and new Silver Sponsor, CooperVision, also took the Company Challenge, delivering thousands more dollars to the cause.

Optometry students at UNSW raised more than $3,000, while their counterparts at the Australian College of Optometry and Queensland University of Technology held cake sales, barbeques and raffles to raise funds.

Thanks for your Support

Throughout the year, mivision, as our Gold National Media Sponsor, has provided significant marketing and promotional support to Optometry Giving Sight. This year has been the fourth consecutive year mivision has generously shown this level of support, through advertising space, editorial and promotion of fundraising campaigns.

With a loyal and impressive readership, this support has been invaluable to help Optometry Giving Sight build its brand and communicate both the need for, and results of, funding for patients such as Nlando from South Africa (featured in the WSDC materials); Niroshan and Ranmanike from Sri Lanka (featured in the Say YEStoday campaign) and of course the three brothers from Sumba.

Optometry Giving Sight Australian Manager, Ron Baroni said he wanted to thank everyone who had supported the organisation.

“During the past six months of working in this role, I have seen the generosity of the optometric community. Hearing the story of Rivaldo, Susanto and Victor inspires me to work harder to raise more funds – each and every donation enables us to fund more projects and transform more lives.”

As the year draws to a close and the shops, and many of our homes, fill with Christmas decorations, your thoughts may turn to those less fortunate. If you haven’t donated this year or, if you are able to give a little more, please make your donation online at www.givingsight.org or call (AUS) 1300 88 10 73.

Jo Humphries is the Communications Manager for Optometry Giving Sight. Ms. Humphries has nine years experience working with eye care charitable organisations and is passionate about eye health in developing countries.