Two Specsavers optometrists recently embarked on an outreach program to Vietnam as part of a collaboration with The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Specsavers Mill Park optometrist An Vu and Specsavers Sunbury graduate optometrist Tuong Nghiem were selected from applicants across Australia and New Zealand to travel to Tiền Giang, Vietnam as part of the program. The trip represented the first time the annual outreach program had extended beyond the usual Fiji destination.

From 1-9 April 2017, An and Tuong worked with The Fred Hollows Foundation, Specsavers’ charity partner, on its Vietnam Child Eye Care Project. The pair hosted a two-day training program, where they updated over 20 doctors from the district and provincial eye hospitals on basic refraction knowledge, eye-screening processes and new techniques for dispensing glasses. An and Tuong then joined local doctors at Than Cuu Nghia Secondary School to help carry out much-needed eye tests for 100 local children.

All Specsavers stores support The Fred Hollows Foundation as well as a number of local charities through the Specsavers Community Program, which raises money by giving customers a token that represents a donation when they purchase a pair of glasses. The outreach trip allowed An and Tuong to observe firsthand how funds from the Community Program are being spent to make quality eye care more accessible to all beyond Australia and New Zealand.

“The Foundation is honoured to have optometrists such as An and Tuong … working with our local teams,” The Fred Hollows Foundation Founding Director Gabi Hollows said. “Trips like this are invaluable in working towards our shared vision of access to quality eye care around the world.”

Tuong Nghiem (left) and An Vu

Meet the participants
An was inspired to apply for the outreach trip after she grew up in Vietnam without access to regular and quality eye care. As a result, she developed myopia, which went undetected and progressed into severe myopia later in life.

“This personal experience has reinforced to me the need to improve eye care in Vietnam and raise awareness of the importance of having regular eye examinations,” An explained.

“As an optometrist, I understand how detrimental poor vision can be to an individual’s capacity for education, employment, and quality of life. In underdeveloped countries where lack of vision care is widespread, the burden of low vision operates on a grander scale. Preventable blindness remains a significant obstacle not only in personal quality of life, but also in these nations’ productivity and development.”

Tuong, an Australian with a Vietnamese background, shares An’s passion for providing access to quality eye-health care in underdeveloped countries.

He explained, “In Australia, we are blessed to have a universal healthcare system with bulk-billed eye tests available to all residents. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many developing countries where it is common for eye diseases to be left untreated, resulting in avoidable blindness.

“I believe in this trip because it is not just about finding eye diseases, but about creating the backbone of a sustainable eye-care system by training Vietnam’s local doctors. Providing the tools and knowledge to treat eye-health conditions will go a long way in changing the trajectory of even the most remote communities.”

Specsavers and The Fred Hollow Foundation will jointly host two more outreach trips to Fiji in May and June of this year.