The Boy that Smiled

2 Comments

The Boy that Smiled

The Boy that Smiled

ABC Adventures: Part One

Written by Pete Gardner

 Team ABC Ready to Begin their Journey at Kathmandu Tribuhvan Airport

Team ABC Ready to Begin their Journey at Kathmandu Tribuhvan Airport

Davi sat in the testing chair. He looked more nervous than the other children. I looked at his notes, no problems with his vision had been reported, but his vision was not as good as expected.

One quick flick with the retinoscope, and I slipped a pair of -1.50 lenses into the trial frame. The smile spread across his face as he saw clearly for the first time. It will live with me forever.

This is why I do optometry for a living, and now I have the chance to do it at an elevation of 2000m in the shadow of Annapurna South.

The Annapurna Base Camp team, Ashley George, Jenny Hsieh, Megan Zabell, Wendy Berlecky and myself Pete Gardner, arrived in Kathmandu three days ago. I met Jenny at Kuala Lumpur airport as we caught the same flight in, and we passed through immigration at Nepal international airport without a hitch, unlike poor Ashley who apparently had some explaining to do as to why she was carrying 100 bottles of eyedrops.

My first experience of Kathmandu traffic was... exciting. The chaotic dance of taxis, mopeds, and rickshaws is a sight to behold! I realised quickly that Nepalese vehicles don’t have indicators, or possibly brakes, but they all have a horn, and if you are a pedestrian on a zebra crossing, well... good luck!

We met Julie Lam, our E4E representative on the ground, and after a briefing on how the next couple of weeks were going to look, we set out to explore the sights, sounds and sheer frenzy that is Kathmandu, finishing up with Julie taking us to her favourite back street curry house for a magnificent vegetarian curry. We all heeded the warnings, and the carnivores amongst us resolved to join our non meat eating colleagues, and go meat free for the trek.

Returning to the hotel, some hasty repacking was done to ensure all the equipment for the trip fit into the Eyes4Everest duffel bags. The weight of which was a struggle to get down the stairs the following morning, as I remembered our porters were going to be carrying these up the mountain... more of that later. 

After an early breakfast, we loaded up the cab, and headed back into the much quieter early morning traffic, still like a ride on the fun fair dodgem cars, but with random cows thrown into the mix, to arrive in good time to meet Tashy, our resident Nepalese optometrist. 

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression “as pretty as an airport”, and Tribhuvan domestic airport wastes no time in proving Douglas Adam correct.

Fortunately Tashy’s expertise navigated us through the chaos and through security (with separate male and female channels to facilitate efficient frisking) to arrive at our gate in plenty of time for our unsurprisingly delayed flight. Considering all flights to the Everest region have been cancelled for the last week due to poor weather, I consider we were lucky. 

 Everything made it to Pokhara

Everything made it to Pokhara

Pretty soon we were aboard the small Yeti airlines flight leaving the haze which shrouds Kathmandu behind us. Blue skies opened up above the cloud and we drank in our first view of the Himalayan mountains. I spent the whole flight staring out of the window, mesmerised, with my mouth open in awe doing my best to look like a goldfish. Meanwhile, local resident Tashy, sitting next to me, idly flicked through the in flight magazine. 

25 minutes and a rather “solid” landing later (not sure if we left a dent in the runway...) we were disembarking and collecting the luggage.  We met the remainder of our team in the car park. Our guides Kami and Santos, and our porters Laxman, Dil and Mani, whom I suspect may be part Kryptonian, due to their incredible strength and stamina.  

A two hour bone rattler of a road trip led out of Pokhara up the mountain, dodging mopeds on their way down the switchbacks. The road rapidly deteriorated, giving the bus driver ample opportunity to show off his driving skills keeping four wheels on the road and not relocating us into the valley below. Arriving at Naya Pal, the starting point for the Annapurna sanctuary trek. I watched our trio of porters tying together the Eyes4Everest duffels with other bags and rucksacks, then lifting the whole dead weight onto their backs, held in place by a strap around the forehead. Did I mention their super human strength?

 In the shadow of Annapurna South (Pictured Left)

In the shadow of Annapurna South (Pictured Left)

Over the next few hours we trekked in glorious sunshine under blue skies past rice paddies, wallowing water buffalo and through small villages, with people going about the business of life, chatting with the neighbours, bathing the baby, fixing dinner, and even the obligatory bored looking teen glued to her mobile phone. Doesn’t matter where you go in the world.

As the afternoon wore on we started to feel the heat making what should have been the easy day to break in the walking legs a bigger challenge than expected. The heat also took its toll on our porters, proving that even supermen have limits. With the heat slowing us down and the initial delay in setting off, it became obvious that if we carried on to Ulleri we would be finishing the climb in the dark. Kami our head guide made the call to pull up early so we spent the night in Tikhedhunga. 

Waking bright and early, we breakfasted on Grung bread, like a deep fried naan bread, and when eaten with jam, tastes like a guilt free jam doughnut. Over the next two hours we made the vertical climb up the 500 meter staircase to Ulleri. As we struggled up the steep climb in the heat, we were overtaken by a number of school kids in shirts and ties, skipping up the steps, not breaking a sweat... we would meet these kids again later for their eye tests. I wonder what they really thought of these weird Australians?

After a 500m climb in the hot sun up to Ulleri, the ABC team set up our makeshift consulting room in the local school, we had our team briefing and took our assigned stations. Megan and Jenny having the ignominy of setting up the ocular examination station in a newly built, and fortunately unused, toilet as it was the only place they could shut out the light!

Over the next four hours the team examined all the children at the Shree Ulleri Primary School. The kids were typically excited, nervous, and highly inquisitive, and totally unable to resist picking up my retinoscope and trial set lenses for a closer look.

 Patients waiting outside the Ulleri Primary School

Patients waiting outside the Ulleri Primary School

Over the afternoon, we saw over fifty kids and a couple of teachers, a few hyperopic kids were struggling with reading, and Davi needed his distance correction, but the kids were generally fit well and happy, and having a great time being kids! I only had to stop them fiddling with the trial lenses several times...

IMG-1365.JPG

The following morning we woke early with a magnificent view of Annapurna South, which towers over the villages, a quick commute back to the school, found a bustling queue already starting to form. Over the day we saw over 60 people for full examinations. With many people trekking in several hours from the surrounding villages, showing the need for basic health care services in these remote areas. We attempted to get through everyone who turned up, but we are only a small group and by 5.30 the light was fading, Wendy and myself were speeding through our refractions with steam coming out of our retinoscopes, but eventually it was too dark and I’m sad to say a few left disappointed. Over 30 orders were placed for glasses, the majority as expected for near work. A few cataracts were diagnosed, and many drops for dry eyes and allergy were dispensed. I am happy to say we did not find much pathology, Himalayan people are a lot fitter and healthier than your average Aussie.

 Wendy refracting a patient

Tonight we will have a well earned rest and head off bright and early for the trek to Chitre where we have another two full days of eye exams booked in. 

We are just getting started!!!!

2 Comments

Pete Gardner, an optometrist of many talents - ABC 2018 volunteer

Pete Gardner, an optometrist of many talents - ABC 2018 volunteer

Pete Gardner, is an optometrist and photographer based in the Swan Valley north of Perth. He is an Area Eyecare Manager for OPSM in Western Australia, spending half his week consulting at OPSM Midland, and the rest of his time coaching and mentoring the team of graduate optometrists working for OPSM across the Perth region. “After 20 years in the profession, I still have the same love for optometry as I did when I graduated, I aim every day to improve the lives of each of my patients who sit in my consulting room, I cannot wait for the chance to do the same for people in the mountain communities of Nepal”

Pete is also a highly skilled photographer, and is excited to be expedition photographer and blogger for the Annapurna Base Camp Team arriving in Nepal next week, keeping everyone in Australia updated with the teams progress and adventures.

Pete developed his landscape photography skills as an optometry student at Bradford University, spending his weekends Caving in the Yorkshire Dales or climbing the mountains of Scotland and Snowdonia, it was only natural the camera should come along.

Pete moved to Australia in 2002 and as an avid scuba diver he instantly took to the incredible waters around the Australian coast, which led to him becoming an accomplished underwater photographer.

Having a young family now it is not as easy getting out into the wilderness or underwater as it once was, so Pete can often be found indulging his passion for rock music, photographing local and international touring bands playing in Perth, publishing his work in local online music magazines.

You can see Pete’s photography at petegardnerphotography.com

Show your support by following him on Facebook and Instagram: @petegardnerphotography

 

Staying Snug in your Sleeping Bag - Nepalese Trekking

Staying Snug in your Sleeping Bag - Nepalese Trekking

A long day of hiking has your body begging for a great night's rest. You can see it, you're so close, it's almost time to get into that sleeping bag.

The rooms along the trekking routes are not heated so it can be bitterly cold at night. 

 Typical teahouse accommodation with complimentary blankets and pillow. Put your sleeping bag on top of the mattress. Pile on the blankets for extra warmth 🔥

Typical teahouse accommodation with complimentary blankets and pillow. Put your sleeping bag on top of the mattress. Pile on the blankets for extra warmth 🔥

Here's some tips to stay comfy and toasty:

1. Sleeping bag ratings: A sleeping bag comfort rating is based on a person wearing thermals. For trekking in Nepal from October to December, a four-season sleeping bag with a comfort rating (not extreme) of 0 degrees may be sufficient. If you feel the cold, you can sleep in your down jacket. If you tend to run cold naturally, we recommend a higher rated sleeping bag.

A sleeping bag liner is highly recommended as you will be quite dirty after days of trekking. They're a must for hygiene in rented sleeping bags. 

2. Teahouse goodies: The teahouses you are staying in are likely to have blankets and/or pillows but don't bank on them. Bring a liner or something to put on top of the pillows - the pillows there have seen many hikers' heads. If you cannot sleep without a good pillow, bring an inflatable pillow. To save space, you can stuff your carrier bag with soft clothes to make a great pillow. It is always good to sleep with your head elevated - it helps prevent cerebral oedema at high altitudes.

3. Luxuries: Walls are thin plywood and not insulated, making earplugs a wise choice. The high altitude and the cold drains batteries very quickly. Place all your electronics and batteries in your sleeping bag with you to keep them warm and conserve battery. I recommend putting them in a ziplock bag so you don't need to play hide-and-seek with them in the morning. There's nothing worse than waking up with a battery in your sock or a plug jamming into your spine. 

4. Makeshift electric blanket: Imagine if you could get the feeling of an electric blanket on the freezing mountains.... well you can!

  1. Fill a Nalgene with hot water.
  2. Roll hot Nalgene around the inside of the bag for a few minutes to warm up all corners
  3. Toss said Nalgene (wrapped in a sock or fleece) in as a hot water bottle.
  4. Step in and be embraced by the hug of a warm sleeping bag. P.S. make sure the bottle lid is tight - down feathers+water = ruined sleeping bag and clothes for the whole trip. 

Stay snug as a bug!

What do you value? Get to know the Eyes4Everest team

Comment

What do you value? Get to know the Eyes4Everest team

Written by Celine Zhang

 The Suspension Bridge to Namche Bazarr 

The Suspension Bridge to Namche Bazarr 

Last Tuesday, the Eyes4Everest Committee gathered to chat about why we do what we do. Everything worth doing takes a lot of hard work, grit and determination - whether it be climbing a mountain, achieving new personal goals or crafting new trips and teams for our Eyes4Everest mission. Shaun let me know in a recent email that he was “working really hard, like possessed like a crazy person hard”.

Your values are what matter most to you. They can morph and change with time and experience.

They act as a compass to determine if something will be a good fit in your life. They are like a navigation system, guiding and leading us.

Our values gives us purpose in what we do.

We posed these questions to each other and we all had something different to share. Our answers have been shortened for easy reading.

 

What are your values?

  • Shaun: Using my time wisely to do the things I enjoy.

  • Jenny: Maintaining good health and making life simpler.

  • Joe: I enjoy teaching and practicing optometry, as well as building relationships.

  • Grace: Compassion - helping others within your means even if they can’t return the favour, Empathy - trying to be less selfish, Integrity - being able to do right by yourself and others

  • Celine: Optimism and making sure everyone is happy and taken care of

 

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

  • Shaun: Trekking around the world, climbing a few peaks and if God willing, be good enough to climb Everest. Spreading E4E to other mountain communities in need of primary eyecare

  • Celine: Married with children and growing my knowledge of optometry. I’d love to help create systems to deliver efficient paediatric eyecare.

  • Jenny: I’d like to simplify my possessions and take care of family and people I care about.

  • Joe: Practicing optometry, teaching, and maybe raising a family.

  • Grace: Working towards being financially free so I can pursue my passions, be flexible with my time and help others.  

 2017 Team at Everest Base Camp

2017 Team at Everest Base Camp

What are the intrinsic motivators that wake you up in the morning?

  • Shaun: Awareness that time is ticking. If I do not plan and act now, I will deny myself the life I want in the future. Knowing everything I do with E4E and Behavioural Optometry is an expression of my values and beliefs.

  • Celine: A great cup of tea, my dog and the great people around me

  • Jenny: Morning runs set a great tone for the rest of my day. I want to travel more so it is important to keep fit.

  • Joe: To do good in world and do my job well.

  • Grace: I like to be an achiever. I get up in the morning, see what needs to be done and do it. Thinking positive.

 

What do you think is missing in your lives and the lives of people these days? 

  • Shaun: People have made themselves too busy to appreciate what they have. They are unhappy and buy things, which only give them a temporary buzz

  • Celine: Meaningful face-to-face human connection. Technology has permeated our lives. Sometimes we just need to step back and acknowledge each other without the interruption of checking or phones or computers. This is one of the reasons I love to hike - no cell connection = no Facebook browsing

  • Jenny: Heart to heart connection. It’s harder for people to build deep relationships. These things used to happen spontaneously but we are more distracted these days.  People don’t show their true selves anymore.

  • Joe: Purpose. I feel automation is a reason why people can’t see value in what they do. A certain listlessness and disengagement seems to arise from that.

  • Grace: Compassion is the key to connecting with others. We need to help each other to bring joy to ourselves. Connection is more important than being right. Optometrists are looking for values in the profession and give back to community who need it most.  

 

What are Eyes4Everest’s values to you?

  • Celine: Service to others, compassion and the spirit of adventure

  • Jenny: Sustainability is the basis of leaving a legacy. Otherwise it’ll die

  • Joe: Purpose and Simplicity. Your life is simplified to completing a mission and climbing a mountain.

  • Grace: Like my values. All of us believe in compassion and integrity.

 Patients waiting to be tested at Monjo 

Patients waiting to be tested at Monjo 

 

Eyes4Everest is about...

 

Treating Preventable Blindness by delivering primary eyecare
Contributing your skills and your heart to enrich the lives of others
Create sustainable eyecare involving Sherpa or Nepalese optometrists
The spirit of adventure to discover what one is physically and mentally capable
 

Our work in E4E is an expression of who we are and what we value. We sow the seeds of time and effort so we can grow our efforts to provide primary eyecare to the mountain communities in Nepal. We nurture sustainability by working with Nepalese optometrists.

What are your values? Maybe we can’t live our values out 100% of the time, but we all plan to try.

Join us on a journey to create sustainable eyecare in  Nepal =D

We’re always so grateful for volunteers. 

 

Our Current Committee (August 2018)

  • Vice President Operations and Marketing: Shaun Chang
  • Director of Finance: Grace Wee
  • Director of Administration: Jenny Hsieh
  • Lead Generation Manager: Celine Zhang
  • Lead Conversion Manager: Joe Wang
  • Marketing Strategies Manager: Tali Weinberg
NPL 17_0456.jpg

Comment

ABC volunteer, E4E committee - Jenny Hsieh

Comment

ABC volunteer, E4E committee - Jenny Hsieh

Written by Jenny Hsieh

20160409_103611.jpg

Jenny had been with Eyes4Everest since before it all began in 2014. It was only a small team of four consisting of three optometrists and one pharmacist. Today, she is still a committee member of E4E but the organisation had grown a lot since then!

Jenny graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2004 and completed her therapeutics training in 2008. She worked for OPSM for four years after she graduated and then spent a few years doing locum work throughout Australia. She is now based in Brisbane. During the years of locuming she enjoyed traveling and seeing the world. It was when she was backpacking through South East Asia that she experienced the difficult living conditions of those in remote regions, and felt the need to give back. She went on to volunteer in Vietnam Vision Project, worked with Brien Holden vision in central Australia and then joined Eyes4Everest. She had been to Nepal twice now with Eyes4Everest and would highly recommend anyone interested to give it a go! Jenny is going to be in the Annapurna Base Camp team this year and she is looking forward to working with all the wonderful volunteers!

 

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Jacqueline Duong

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Jacqueline Duong

Posted by Jenny Hsieh

jacquline.jpg

Welcome Jacqui to our 2018 EBC team! 

Here is a little bit about Jacqui in her own words: 

"Hi, I’m Jacqui! I graduated from Deakin University in 2015 and currently locum across regional Australia in both private and community practices. I find travelling is a great way to learn about new cultures, its people and cuisine.

Early this year I volunteered in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea, performing sight tests and educating villagers about general eye health and vision care. This has been a humbling and rewarding experience, being able to serve the people of PNG with my skills and knowledge. 

I am excited about the challenges of trekking in Nepal and look forward to assisting the Nepalese community". 

 

 

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Ashleigh Wong

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Ashleigh Wong

Posted by Jenny Hsieh

ashleigh.JPG

We are greatful to have Ashleigh join us to the Everest Base Camp this year!

Ashleigh is a Canberran optometrist who graduated from Deakin University in 2017. Since she was a little girl, Ashleigh has had a passion for volunteering and helping out where there is a need. In 2014, she volunteered at an orphanage in Sri Lanka and assisted in paediatric medical screenings in the remote villages – this was where her eyes were opened to the need for eye care and her love of optometry began.  To be able to bring this passion and her optometry skills to communities with limited access to eye care, and to combine this with her love of hiking, is a dream come true. 

 

 

Comment

Our First Ever Podcast

Comment

Our First Ever Podcast

Our volunteers have asked and we have delivered. I sit down with co-founder Carina Trinh and Vice President Joe Wang to go through questions you have about our trip. 

  1. Logistic Brochure - Have you gone through it? Carina go through the importance of doing your homework. 
  2. What we wished we bought on our first trip
  3. Hot Showers everyday? Now that's luxury  
  4. How much Diamox should one take? 
  5. Packing slim 
  6. The weather - is October a good time to travel? 

Disclosure: The advice we provide is general information based on our experience. We encourage all current and future volunteers to do their own research. 

Comment

ABC Volunteer - Wendy Berlecky

Comment

ABC Volunteer - Wendy Berlecky

Posted by Jenny Hsieh

wendy berkley.JPG

Meet Wendy who loves the great outdoors and has a passion for voluntary work!

Graduating for UNSW in 1983, Wendy accepted a contract to establish the first full time Optometry practice on Norfolk Island. She returned to Sydney and began work with the Royal Blind Society, establishing the first mobile Low Vision Clinic in NSW. This involved a lot of country travel from the Victorian border to the Queensland border. Since then she has established and worked in four of her own private practices (only two at a time thankfully) before selling them all to spend more time with her family. She has been married for 33 years and has two adult children who are both studying at Uni.

Over the years Wendy has done a lot of voluntary work through the schools and through Scouts. She has gained her Outdoor Recreation qualifications and is a guide for bushwalking, canoeing, kayaking and sailing. These days Wendy does country locum work as well as organizing regular outdoor activities.

The opportunity to attend the mission to Annapurna seemed a perfect combination for her to combine her desire to help others and her love of the outdoors and hiking.

 

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Shane Weinberg

Comment

EBC Volunteer - Shane Weinberg

Posted by Jenny Hsieh

shane weinberg.jpeg

Meet Shane Weinberg! This year's Everest Base Camp volunteer!

Shane has always been passionate about health and wellbeing, graduating with a Bachelor and Masters of Chiropractic Science. During his studies, Shane worked as an Optical Dispenser for 6 years where he learnt and become passionate about vision care. This care extended into clinical practice as a Chiropractor where he specialised in postural therapy to treat the underlying cause of patient’s pain.

Shane grew up playing team sports and has always maintained an active healthy lifestyle in gym, marathon running, martial arts and bike riding. He enjoys being immersed in the outdoors, particularly snowboarding, hiking and scuba diving.  

Shane has a strong passion for healthcare and is dedicated to improving people’s quality of life. He looks forward to helping the Nepalese community in Everest.

We are so glad to have you as a valuable member of the EBC team! 

 

 

Comment

ABC Volunteer - Megan Zabell

Comment

ABC Volunteer - Megan Zabell

Written by Jenny Hsieh

megan zabell.jpeg

Meet Megan Zabell our first Annapurna Base Camp Volunteer! 

Megan is an optometrist based in Melbourne, Australia. While she enjoys her main job at a boutique independent practice, working with people who struggle to fit into the “one size fits all” approach taken by some of the retail chains, she does like to diversify her work by teaching the developing optometrists at her alma mater, University of Melbourne.

Outside of optometry Megan is keen about fitness, with a focus on Martial Arts. She has previously competed at the professional level for Muay Thai, both in Australia and overseas, and now focuses less on competing and more on training for fitness and judging/refereeing. She also enjoys all sorts of Latin dance, most recently performing Brazilian Samba in a dance showcase.

Megan has previously volunteered in the Melampfa Provence of Vanuatu travelling by yacht, and immensely enjoyed the experience of delivering health care to people who otherwise had very limited access. She was excited to join the Eyes4Everest team as it offers the chance to provide eye health to remote communities combined with a physical challenge.

She had also started fundraising for Eyes4Everest! The funds raised will go towards making primary eyecare more accessible for the locals in the Annapurna region and Sagarmatha National Park region. Visit her website and support Megan by clicking here

Comment

Big Names in 2018

Comment

Big Names in 2018

Written by Shaun Chang

IMG_9628.JPG

Wow!

I couldn't believe it. The Eyecare Director of Bailey Nelson had put her name down for Everest Base Camp 2018. 

Just weeks before, we were chatting over coffee at my local cafe. Robyn heard about our eye missions from two Bailey Nelson optometrists. She wanted to know more. 

Robyn had qualified as an optometrist in South Africa and practiced in independent optometry until immigrating to Australia in 1998. She joined Luxottica and during her career spanning 16 years, held various positions including Director of Eyecare and Community (Australia & NZ).  She also spent a Year at Westpac on an Executive Leadership Programme for women. 

Impressive I thought. It was clear that both of us were passionate about optometry. It was about customer experience, clinical care, social justice and equality. Quite simply, vision is a basic human right. 

"Good vision is a basic human right" 
 

I thought back to 2013 when senior Sherpa doctor Kamitemba informed me that children were having vision difficulties. I had no experience in volunteering or philanthropy but I was possessed to do it. For that reason, Eyes4Everest is different to a lot of charities out there. For one, our glasses are made to prescription and recordings are done through the E4E App.  What does that mean? No wastage and quick turnaround time.

I am pretty proud of that but Eyes4Everest can be better. Robyn and I have a common goal, which is to provide an example of vision care to those who are disadvantaged by social status or geographic location. She has been involved in charitable clinics in Australia, New Zealand and globally as well as spending years establishing sustainable vision centers throughout Africa. We can definitely benefit from her knowledge and experience. 

I look forward to working with her.

P.S. I love startups and Bailey Nelson is a Sydney startup. Their story began in 2012 at the Bondi markets. I love the quality and style of their frames and recommend you check them out!  I don't get any kickback for saying that. It is my opinion as a fiercely independent optometrist. 

 

Comment