Eyes4Everest has completed its first eye mission in the Annapurna region of Nepal, and in response to the “overwhelming need for primary eye care” has planned a further two treks for September 2018.
Optometrist Carina Trinh led a team of eight volunteers to Annapurna Base Camp in November 2017, the primary goals for which she said were to investigate the need for eye care in the region and provide services as needed.
The Annapurna region of Nepal is a well visited region by tourists, however like the Everest region, the locals have little access to primary eye care beyond the nearest town of Pokhara. It is a beautiful region that begins at a lower altitude.
WORKING WITH SHERPAS
Eyes4Everest works closely with Sherpa guides who helped found Eyes4Everest and have excellent local knowledge of the region. The Sherpa people migrated to Nepal from Tibet 600 years ago, in search of land for their yaks. They are devoted Buddhists and believe illness including eye problems is the result of evil spirits. The invitations of llamas to perform rituals are needed to cast evil spirits out.
Tashi is a very bright young woman with an incredible passion to provide eye care to Himalayan villagers
Shaun Chang, founder of Eyes4Everest said it is important to respect the Sherpa’s beliefs. “The work of early volunteer New Zealand and Canadian doctors have changed minds but there are still families that will refuse Western medicine. Having a Sherpa optometrist is important to breaking that barrier,” he said.
The Sherpa crew includes the world’s only Sherpa optometrist, Tashi Doma Sherpa, who was born in the village of Pangboche en-route to Everest Base Camp. “Tashi allows us to effectively connect the importance of eye care to Sherpa culture,” explained Ms. Trinh.
WORKING TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION
Australian eyewear company Dresden supported Eyes4Everest mission, supplying its environmental friendly, lightweight and sturdy frames, which are easily fitted using a four size modular system and easy to repair. Put together with plastic plugs instead of screws, the company’s frame contribution enabled Eyes4Everest to simplify their dispensing process.
Glasses were provided free for children under 18 while all other patients paid 500 Nepalese Rupees for a pair of single vision spectacles that were edged in Kathmandu. Exceptions were made for patients deemed genuinely financially unable to pay.
FINDING A FUTURE FOR LOCAL OPTOMETRY
As well as providing eye care, Eyes4Everest is working to develop a sustainable local optometry service. “A lot of people ask me when we are going to be an eye clinic, but they forget the clinic is just the body whereas the optometrist is its soul!” said Mr. Chang. “Tashi Doma Sherpa, our Sherpa optometrist is the future of Eyes4Everest. It is most important to train her, particularly because she is connected to mountain communities and can decide what is best for them”.
“Tashi is a very bright young woman with an incredible passion to provide eye care to Himalayan villagers,” added Ms. Trinh. “She is willing to learn and has the potential to be an excellent optometrist but she needs further education and experience. We wish to support Tashi in her education and development in line with Australian optometry so that she may confidently lead our volunteer optometrists.”
Ms. Trinh said Eyes4Everest is currently pursuing opportunities to provide Tashi with further training in Australia.
2018 MISSIONS: EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST
Eyes4Everest has four eye missions planned for 2018:
Annapurna Sanctuary: 31 August to 17 September
Annapurna Base Camp: 17 September to 5 October
Everest Base Camp: 4 October to 22 November
Gokyo and Renjo la Pass: 21 October to 8 November
Annapurna trips are AU$2,600pp and Everest trips are $2,800pp. Trip costs are inclusive of accommodation, meals, National Park fees, Nepalese optometrist fee, guide and porter fee and insurance.
To find out more visit www.eyes4everest.org.au