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Sumba Eye Program

Sumba Eye Program

Australian Optometrists celebrate 10 years of work

Australian optometrists, Peter Stewart OAM and Peter Lewis OAM, have been visiting the small Indonesian island of Sumba twice yearly since 2007, in order to develop a sustainable eye care program for the population of 670,000 people.

In that time they have seen nearly 10,000 patients, and in partnership with Dr Mark Ellis AM have enabled 750 surgical procedures and supplied about 8,500 pairs of spectacles. They have also provided training to 12 local Eye Care Nurses who have the skills to undertake basic refraction and promote the importance of eye health in communities throughout Sumba. They have also trained about 20 interpreters who are great when eye tests in the community is needed.

One of the beneficiaries of the program is Junius (pictured), a typical active teenager who loves playing soccer and going swimming with friends. His childhood has been far from carefree, however, as his congenital eye problems have caused much grief, almost disabling him from doing daily activities like going to school, reading or simple household chores.

The strain on his eyes and the resulting headaches and mental exhaustion meant that Junius had to miss the first 4 years of primary school. Even when he was able to attend, he couldn’t see clearly and this hindered his progress and made him very unhappy.  Frustrated, he pleaded for his parents to get help.

Junius’s parents were very hopeful and prayed that he might somehow be able to get the help he needed even though they could not afford to travel to get his eyes checked. Their meagre income from running a vegetable store at a local market just did not stretch that far. Their prayers were answered in 2016 when they were told about the Sumba Eye Program annual screening clinic, where Junius was provided with his first temporary pair of glasses at the age of 14.

Even though that first pair of glasses was not perfect, they nonetheless brought immense joy and immeasurable happiness to this young teenager. He was over the moon!

On their return to Australia, the SEP team had a customised pair of glasses specially made for Junius, which they were able to fit for him during their last screening visit to the island in August 2017.  

Junius’ mum told the SEP team that the glasses had made a world of difference to Junius. He has become more confident and very cheerful. He is now able to help his mom run the vegetable store and manages the cash till really well with his new found eyes!

Funding for the Sumba Eye Program is provided by Optometry Giving Sight with support from other partners.