Specsavers Sunbury graduate optometrist Tuong Nghiem talks about why initiatives such as the Specsavers Vietnam Outreach Program are so valuable for developing countries and what he personally took away from the recent trip.

The Specsavers Vietnam outreach was one of the most rewarding experiences of my short optometry career. It opened my eyes to many of the healthcare challenges confronted in developing countries and why it is important that we support those in need.

As a second-year member of the Specsavers Graduate Program I was very fortunate to be selected to attend the trip as the junior optometrist. I was joined by senior optometrist An Vu from Specsavers Mill Park, who is also deeply passionate about eye care in third-world countries.

Whilst the graduate program has given me a solid foundation, the opportunity to participate in an outreach to Vietnam with Specsavers’ national charity of choice, The Fred Hollows Foundation, has rounded out my experiences as a graduate and I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been afforded me. They are experiences that will no doubt shape the way I practice for the rest of my career.

The Vietnam outreach was a collaboration between Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation. While Specsavers sends its optometrists on outreaches in rural Australia and the Pacific with the Foundation each year, this was the first time there was an opportunity in Vietnam. The Foundation has already established a great children’s eye care initiative in Vietnam and it was very exciting to be involved in continuing the great work that has already started.

Being an Australian-born Vietnamese person, a lot of the challenges I faced during the trip hit very close to home. Tiền Giang is a province in Vietnam in need of a lot of attention and support when it comes to eye health and changes will be made slowly over time.

Healthcare in Vietnam is severely underdeveloped, especially in regional / rural communities. Making even the smallest of changes would go a long way in altering the outlook of many of these remote populations. We are very blessed to live in a country where eye care is affordable and easily accessible. The same cannot be said for much of Vietnam.

I am very passionate about eye care both in Australia and abroad and I hope that this outreach will be the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between Specsavers, The Fred Hollows Foundation and Vietnam. Specsavers’ ethos aligns very well with that of The Fred Hollows Foundation in that we strive to provide affordable, quality and easily accessible eye care to everyone, and this was evident on our trip. It gave me a sense of great pride to be able to carry this out in another part of the world.

The Specsavers Vietnam outreach would not have been possible without the Specsavers Community Program. This is an initiative where a portion of every pair of spectacles sold at Specsavers stores in Australia and New Zealand goes toward a local charity and The Fred Hollows Foundation – which helps pay for projects like the Foundation’s work in Vietnam.

This trip has given me another perspective for the work that I do back home in Sunbury because now when customers purchase glasses, I will know exactly where the money donated will go and the lives that will be changed because of it.

The Specsavers Vietnam outreach was an unforgettable experience and I will never forget how thankful and gracious the local doctors and children were. I hope to be back again soon.

The Specsavers Vietnam Outreach Program took place in Tiền Giang from 1-9 April 2017. Tuong and Specsavers Mill Park optometrist An Vu helped train doctors in the latest eye-testing processes and conducted vision screening for school children as part of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Vietnam Child Eye Care Project.