Working in the Field
- Category: Be Involved
The Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation delivers eye care services in developing regions where it is urgently required, in partnership with local governments, non-government agencies and other supporting stakeholders. Our ongoing role is to work with our partners in the local context to create sustainable, accessible and affordable vision care systems that are culturally appropriate and integrated into existing health care services, for communities in need.
The Foundation welcomes supporters who choose to spend time working within our programs on short term assignments, as their efforts ultimately contribute to the programs sustainable development and long term success.
It’s a win win situation – supporters benefit by being able to contribute to the Foundation’s program objectives and further their skills of working in outreach environments they would not normally experience. The Foundation is enriched by the presence of supporters offering their individual skills to assist us to continue to offer underserved communities regular access eye care.
The Foundation works in a wide variety of cultures and locations in developing communities across the world, placing supporters in designated positions on short term assignments where they can best use their skills and assist in our program activities both within Australia and overseas. Click here to read more about the countries
Over the last 14 years, we have delivered sustainable eye care services, education and training programs in 54 countries. We currently have 13 offices and 429 vision centres and sites for eye care worldwide. This includes locations that also have the capacity to act as a School of Optometry and train the next generation of optometrists, optometry technicians and other eye care professionals.
We encourage many kinds of individuals to work within our programs: A supporter can be eye care or non eye care trained personnel paid for their time to do a specific assignment. For example: an optometrist can be asked to go on an assignment to provide eye examinations to a community serviced by the Foundation. Or a data entry assistant can be invited to join a research trip to assist in gathering data from the patients attending a vision centre supported by the Foundation.
The Foundation’s policies and guidelines for supporters who work with us follow the best practice as outlined in the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement in not-for-profit organisations by Volunteering Australia.
The above guidelines set the framework within which the work of our supporters is conducted, to ensure the highest possible level of support and guidance is provided to all those involved in the assignment. Due to the diverse nature of our programs and also the countries in which we work, we feel no set of guidelines will cover all circumstances however we hope this information is helpful and addresses the majority of situations. This aims to maximise the contribution provided by the supporter, as well as achieving the greatest possible output and objectives of the assignment undertaken.
Thank you for interest in being involved in our program activity. Please contact us, if you would like further information on available assignments. We do also accept supporters who want to donate their time to the Foundation at no cost in a volunteer capacity.
Stories from Working in the Field
“Having been on a trip to Sri Lanka, where Dr May Ho, a Foundation optometrist was training locals to perform refraction, this was an eye-opener to me that sustainability is extremely important in developing countries. After working in Cambodia for eight months [through the AYAD program with the Foundation as the partner organization), it was wonderful to visit Vietnam and see how far the training program had come. The refraction training in Vietnam is a model program – a lot can be learnt from here and implemented in other countries.
I have been inspired to be involved in volunteer programs that not only provide service delivery, but contribute to self sustainability in developing countries. Foundation volunteers are able to pass on their skills and knowledge to locals – capacity building!” Kerryn Hart, optometrist supporting the Refraction Training Program, Vietnam.
“One highlight of my trip was being able to see rare pathological conditions such as a large macula hole and hypermature cataract. It was interesting to be able to view these conditions using a slit lamp biomicroscope as opposed to simply relying on textbook photographs. Another highlight of my trip was being able to travel in the co-pilot seat on the charter flight during my second week and being able to see amazing overhead views of the outback below.
My two weeks of working with the Foundation has definitely increased my desire to work in remote outreach clinics in the future. It has been a truly rewarding and memorable experience helping those who have limited access to eye care facilities whilst improving my clinical skills at the same time. I am very fortunate to have met so many people from optometrists to regional eye health coordinators who are at the very forefront of improving eye care services to Aboriginal people.” Daisy Shu, optometrist student supporting a Northern Territory outreach trip, Australia.
"I came to Durban, South Africa in September 2010 to work with Professor Kovin Naidoo on the Foundation’s Social Enterprise strategy. Having been a fellow of the Mercator Fellowship on International Affairs (a program of the German Foundation Stiftung Mercator), my initial plan was to spend a few months in Durban before starting my own Social Enterprise venture. However, things changed – the work with Kovin Naidoo turned out to be fantastic and he gave me a lot of opportunities and responsibilities from the very beginning.
Additionally, I realised that the Foundation had already gained so much experience in the field of eye care and had put a lot of infrastructure in place. Hence, I extended my volunteering period to a total of 12 months and it wasn’t a difficult decision to accept the job offer I received following my volunteer work. Today, I’m coordinating the Foundation’s Social Enterprise program." Sebastian Fellhauer, Fellow from Germany supporting program work in Durban, South Africa
“I loved doing the outreach work in Mendi and in Gabba Gabba and being able to see the different sides of Papua New Guinea and its people. In particular, it was great to put some lenses in front of a patient and see a smile and you know that you’ve made a difference. One that comes to mind was a lady who had glasses, however it appeared that she her vision impairment had progressed greatly. Being able to provide her with new appropriate glass and seeing her look around in amazement finally being able to see – just made my day.” Elise Lam, optometrist supporting the Eye Care Research Program, Papua New Guinea.
“My highlight of the trip was seeing the country in great shape after the rain with lots of wildlife. Reaching White Cliffs safely after a three hour drive without seeing another soul just as the rain started again. Good clinics at Maari Ma and Wanaaring with help from the staff in Broken Hill and Sister Pat Michael at Wanaaring." Tim McKinnon, optometrist supporting on the New South Wales, Aboriginal Eye Care Program, Australia.
“When I first travelled to Vietnam the trainers delivering lectures seemed to lack a little confidence. With the Foundation’s support and encouragement given to the trainers through the course, I was very impressed to see how well everyone grew in confidence. Their lectures, by the end of the course, were engaging and kept the entire class interested.”
I felt very proud and happy to see the progress and confidence that developed in both the trainers and trainees. The Foundation volunteers give support and were there for the trainers if they are unsure or need help in having aspects of the course explained. Knowing that support is there allows the trainers to develop greater courage and confidence to give better lectures.” Carla Dinardo, optometrist supporting the Refraction Training Program, Vietnam.
“Being part of the Mendi and Lalibo research trip, was a very positive experience. The Foundation is well-regarded and the vision centres are excellent. It was a very rewarding experience!” Drew Keys, research coordinator supporting an Eye Care Research Program, Papua New Guinea.