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ODA Members Extend a Helping Hand to Isolated Fiji Communities

Optical Dispensers Australia (ODA) has organised a Fiji outreach, taking place over seven days from 22nd - 28th July 2024. A team of twelve ODA Members have joined the program to offer vision screening, eye education, optical dispensing and spectacle servicing to isolated villages and communities within the island outskirts. The itinerary also includes visiting schools where they will not only provide necessary eyecare and visual aids but will also distribute stationary and learning materials purchased through their own fundraising efforts.

Here is a little bit about the cause and why they have chosen to extend a helping hand to their friends in Fiji:

Many people associate Fiji with holidays and beautiful island getaways but there is more to the islands than meets the eye. Several years ago, a review conducted by UNSW on the situation of health leadership and management capacity of the Fijian health system found that they have one of the most under-funded health systems in the world.

With funding already an obstacle, Fiji experienced a sharp rise in the exodus of healthcare workers immediately after the COVID pandemic and continues to suffer shortages.

When ODA CEO, April Petrusma met Sylvester Prasad - a Fijian Optical Dispenser with a strong passion for improving eyecare and the quality of life of Fijian communities - she learnt about a village outreach he was conducting and quickly realised the project he was tackling was much bigger than his resources.

“After several discussions, I identified that there was a genuine need for assistance and our ODA community has been overwhelmingly generous in offering to volunteer the time and resources to help.”

“We will begin in Lautoka and will visit isolated communities and schools in Nadi, Lovu, Tavua, Nadelai and Sigatoka.”

This is what Sylvester has to say:

“For the last 30 years Opticare The Eye Centre PTE Ltd has been helping school children, families and communities who are needy and who are unable to help themselves. A plan was devised in 2013 and implemented in 2018 to help the people living in the outskirts of the Fiji Islands with eye issues as there was an increasing problem that was being ignored.

People (patients) were not treated with respect within their communities or said to be sick if they could not see properly, but they had no access to proper eyecare to improve their vision. They were put aside, sent away, people resigned from their work and no proper advice was given by the organisation running the eye clinic and hospitals were doing wrong refractions. I saw this growing need and introduced a plan for a mobile clinic. We don’t just provide eyecare but also take steps to educate communities and help people understand the concept behind making and wearing glasses, and that it only helps and does not worsen the eye, as patients have been advised in the past."