Specsavers Cairns optometrist Lai Tran describes the joy of sharing her expertise and helping people to see again during the recent Fiji outreach trip hosted by Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation.

As part of my professional development at Specsavers, I was honored to be selected to partake in a Specsavers Community Program Fiji training outreach.

While on the trip, I was able to assist and experience firsthand the collaboration between Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation and see how it has enabled patients from the Pacific region to have access to primary eye care and spectacles.

After being directly involved on the front line, I now have a deeper appreciation of the Specsavers Community Program and how a portion of every glasses sale at Specsavers across Australia and New Zealand is donated to The Fred Hollows Foundation to help fund projects such as the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI). I also have a better appreciation of The Foundation’s vision and the impact they have in providing quality eye care services across the world.

During my time in Fiji, I was working closely with a class of nurses to carry out much needed sight tests and distribute glasses to hundreds of local patients at the PEI – the first training facility in the Pacific region.

Alongside my Specsavers colleague Rajneil Prasad, we were also involved in providing further training to these nurses to ensure comprehensive eye tests were administered correctly. Despite a lack of resources in comparison to the privileges that I have in Australia, these nurses exceeded my expectations. Their commitment and willingness to learn as well as provide exceptional patient-centered care was commendable.

Whereby in Australia, routine eye testing is now the norm, it was an eye opener to learn how many Fijians had never had an eye test before. It was gratifying to see how my studies could make a difference to these patients. Studying to become an optometrist for me, was not just about preserving and restoring eyesight but also being able to transfer my skills and medical expertise – so it was incredible to be given the opportunity to help train Fiji’s next generation of eye health professionals.

Another thing I found was that Fijians are very similar to Australians in that they place high importance on vision over the other senses – vision means they can provide for their families, see their grandkids, friends and family, and appreciate life. The only difference between the countries is access.

Because people in Fiji don’t have as much access to eye care, many of them haven’t been given the opportunity to know the difference between something that is clear and something that is not. When we dispensed them with glasses, the reactions were very dramatic because they were so thrilled that they were able to see again. It gave me such a sense of happiness to be able to witness how a simple pair of glasses can change a life – the trip was pretty incredible.

I would like to thank Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation for this unforgettable and highly rewarding experience, with a special mention to my directors at Specsavers Cairns Stockland, Andrew and Suzanne, for their continued support in my professional career. As my humble contribution to give back to the world, I hope to participate in many more outreach programs in the near future.

Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation held two Fiji outreach trips from 29 May to 2 June 2017 and from 12 to 16 June 2017 at the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva. Lai attended the second trip with fellow graduate optometrist Rajneil Prasad from Specsavers Maddington. Two other graduate optometrists, Ravi Singh and Nick Cheang from Specsavers Miranda and Specsavers Success, respectively, participated in the first trip.