Specsavers Miranda optometrist Ravi Singh explains how through the Specsavers Graduate Program, and thanks to funds raised through the Specsavers Community Program, he has been able to fulfil his dream of participating in a Fijian outreach trip, helping to train the next generation of eye health workers while expanding his own clinical experience.

I’ve wanted to attend a Specsavers Community Program Fiji outreach with The Fred Hollows Foundation since my final year of study at Deakin University. Coming from a Fiji-Indian background, the opportunity to give back to the Fijian people and share my knowledge with students at the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI) seemed like a far-fetched dream. So when I received the call from Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation confirming my successful application for the outreach trip, I was lost for words.

I have seen firsthand the devastation of diabetic eye disease with a close family member. An uncle residing in Fiji unfortunately lost his vision and then passed away from kidney failure due to diabetes. If the right education and resources had been available at the time, his life may have been prolonged and he wouldn’t have passed away at the young age of 40. This is why participating in the Specsavers Community Program Fiji outreach was so important to me.

Visiting Suva was an eye-opener due to the lack of eye care services available. The PEI is an initiative of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s New Zealand arm and daily saves the sight of many people in Fiji and other Pacific communities. It provides adequate eye care services and training facilities for students who come from different Pacific nations such as Micronesia and Kiribati.

Once students graduate as eye health workers, they go back to their respective nations and provide eye care services. The PEI focuses on creating a sustainable eye care system through the training of individuals so that these learnings are passed on to other people within their communities.

The importance of the PEI to the people of the Pacific was highlighted when a patient from Kiribati was seen by one of the students I was supervising. The patient presented with bitemporal visual field loss, leading to the potential diagnosis of a pituitary tumour. This clinical finding was a great learning experience for the student, and more importantly, for the patient, it meant that his trip from Kiribati to Fiji for eye care services was worth it.

The training currently underway at the PEI is invaluable to the people of the Pacific as it gives them access to eye care services and visual aids. The Specsavers Community Program is an initiative run by Specsavers stores in Australia and New Zealand. A portion of the proceeds from every pair of spectacles is donated to The Fred Hollows Foundation and hundreds of local charities across the countries. It was amazing to see the impacts of our donations in Fiji.

The outreach trip to Fiji has been a dream come true and a real highlight of the Specsavers Graduate Program. As health professionals, I believe that it is our duty to help communities in need and to pass on our knowledge to future generations.

The partnership between Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation is one I am extremely proud to be a part of. Both parties share the same values of providing equal access to eye care to everyone and supporting all communities. I would urge all my colleagues to consider such a trip – I can’t wait until my next one.

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. Ravi attended the first trip with fellow graduate optometrist Nick Cheang from Specsavers Success. Two other graduate optometrists, Lai Tran and Rajneil Prasad from Specsavers Cairns and Specsavers Maddington, respectively, participated in the second trip.