SVOSH Group from Western University College of Optometry Help the People of Fiji
Last month, Assistant Professor Nataly Fahim, an optometrist from Western University’s College of Optometry traveled to Natuvu Creek, Fiji with one other optometrist and five students to help over 300 patients with their vision needs!
The Mission at Natuvu Creek is a nonprofit organization that offers an array of medical services, health and wellness education initiatives, career development services, grass-roots programs, engineering offerings, and assistance with education from pre-k through high school. Located on the eastern coast of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, the Mission serves as a base for visiting individuals, families, university students and teams seeking to serve the people of Fiji.
Over the course of 10 days, the SVOSH group (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) was able to give away 300 readers and 100 pairs of sunglasses that National Vision donated to the trip.
One student said:
“The people of Fiji are full of love, kindness and laughter. It was truly an honor to be able to support their best quality of life through administering spectacle prescriptions, sunglasses, and treating ocular diseases, conditions, and traumas. It was amazing that the majority of our patients were so grateful for alleviating their uncorrected refractive error. Having been the first eye clinic in the area this year for our patients, they were so grateful for our services, and my experience as a student doctor was changed forever.
My favorite patient was a little 8-year-old boy who came wearing a Seahawks Championship t-shirt. He had significant issues with seeing up close and was experiencing headaches every day after school. I discovered he was a latent hyperope (a vision problem in which the focusing power of the eye is too weak) and had high esophoria (an inward deviation of the eye) which we could alleviate with a spectacle prescription. Both he and his mother were so happy to have glasses to help him perform better in school, and their faces and thanks will never be forgotten.”
Another student reported:
“Preparing for my medical trip to Fiji was very busy and nerve wrecking. I was in clinic full time and having to find time to pack all the essential items needed was tough. However, once in Fiji all I could feel was excitement. Volunteering at the Mission at Natuvu Creek has been the highlight of my summer.
When we got to the Mission we prepared our exam lanes and mini optical area. We were privileged enough to have a phoropter and slit lamp, however with the amount of patients waiting to be seen, we needed to create exam lanes with hand held equipment. Each day patients shared with us how many hours they traveled by foot or boat for an eye exam. I was constantly reminded how important it was that we were there and the care we were providing. Some patients came in only wanting sunglasses, but after their comprehensive eye exam, they left with spectacle glasses, artificial tears and sunglasses!
My most memorable patient was a woman in her 60s who hadn’t been able to read her Bible because she couldn’t see the small print. After handing her a pair of readers, her face lit up! She said ‘Vinaka. Thank you for leaving your home, your family, and your studies to come help the people of Fiji.’
It is those types of patients’ reactions that fuel my passion for optometry. The people of Fiji were grateful for restoring their sight, but in reality we are indebted to them for giving us a larger vision.”
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