The Observatory

Day three: Jess Gallagher’s Vietnam Experience

My trip here to Vietnam with Vision 2020 Australia has already been an incredible one and we are only at day three. I have been able to experience firsthand the amazing work that has been achieved and I am incredibly excited for this journey to continue.

Currently, we are in the south east of Vietnam in a province called Ba Ria-Vung Tau (BVRT) where there are a number of organisations working under the Vietnam Australia Vision Support Program (VAVSP), providing access to eye exams, spectacles and referrals for further vision care for the community. One of these organisations is the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), a member of Vision 2020 Australia’s Global Consortium.

Today we are celebrating World Sight Day with many festivities taking place. To start the day off we attended a large celebration which began with some beautiful singing performances by the local school for blind and vision impaired children.

Their song when translated to me was just beautiful, they sang, ‘even though I can not see I feel the world around me through my heart and even though I am blind I deserve to have a beautiful life’.

Dr Giap, who works with BHVI and is the director of the provincial eye centre then spoke and said to the children ‘we understand your wish and we will do our best to give you a beautiful life’.

Recently, BHVI and Dr Giap began operating a number of sustainable refractive error services for communities in BRVT. BHVI has provided all the equipment and training for staff in three district vision centres which now means more people are being screened for refractive error and have a better chance of correcting and preserving their sight.  

Dr Giap also performs 1000 free cataract surgeries a year and thousands more in his private practice. It was so inspiring to meet Dr Giap and hear him speak about the great work being achieved in BRVT.

A fitting way to start the proceedings of Vietnam’s World Sight Day events.

The morning’s proceedings also included addresses by … Mr Dung, vice chairman of the Provinical Peoples Committee, Mr Thai, Vice Director of the Provincial Health Department and Jennifer Gersbeck, the CEO of Vision 2020 Australia.

The joint mission to eliminate avoidable blindness and vision loss has already changed the lives of thousands and from my experiences of the programs being implemented here there are thousands more whose eye sight will be saved through the avoidable blindness initiative.

Next stop Jennifer and I will be visiting Hue and then it’s onto Hanoi.

Jess Gallagher during Vietnam visit

Jess Gallagher in Vietnam. 
Photo courtesy of Brien Holden Vision Institute, photographer Dean Saffron.