Andrew Koch and cataract patient Adriano Ribera Photo: Andrew Koch
By Vanessa Richardson
Fundraising and communications associate, Optometry Giving Sight
The East Timor eye-care program funded by Optometry Giving Sight is one of the best-in-class examples of eye-care development. Having started from almost nothing, the program is now on the road to sustainability.
Hobart-based optometrist Andrew Koch has volunteered his time in Timor-Leste for the past 14 years and witnessed the improvements first-hand. When he first travelled to Timor-Leste, there were no eye-care resources in the country. Every day, the visiting volunteer optometrists would eye screen more than 500 people. ‘We would work until we dropped, literally,’ Andrew said.
The situation has improved with the establishment of local eye clinics and locally trained Eye Care Nurses (ECN). ‘With support from Optometry Giving Sight, we have equipped and supported the establishment of eye clinics in each of East Timor’s 13 districts and trained local eye-care staff,’ he said.
Most of the everyday refractions are now conducted by local staff while the visiting optometrists mainly mentor or assist with clinical cases. Andrew said it was particularly rewarding to see the level of competence and teamwork from the ECNs and Dili outreach team.
Farmer Adriano Ribera is one of the patients who has benefited from the growing experience of locally trained ECNs. He had been unable to see well for years due to advanced cataracts in both eyes. Appropriate diagnosis and intervention have enabled him to see again.
‘I will be able to work again and provide for my family and play an active role in my village,’ Adriano said.
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To make a donation or for information visit www.givingsight.org.
Andrew Koch mentoring Bernadino in Suai Photo: Andrew Koch