Sairusi Batisaaesare came along to our vision assessment day at Seaqaqa, 40 minutes drive west of
Lambasa. He had been waiting since early morning. With his bible in hand he wanted reading
glasses to help him read some highlighted sections in his bible. Sairusi told us he was a minister for
the Seventh Day Adventist church and was no longer able to read from the bible to his congregation.
After determining Sairusi’s prescription we were able to fit him with reading glasses. He was excited
and relieved to be able to confidently go back to work this week and provide a sermon to his
We met Akosita at Tawake, a village two and a half hours drive east of Lambasa. She has four children and four great grandchildren. Akosita had arrived by boat from Wainigadru. She was born very short sighted and an accident when she was at school had left her with no vision in her right eye. Her poor vision meant that after this accident she had to leave school. Akosita had visited many eye teams in the past and been to Suva looking for help, but no one had been able to provide her with the strength of glasses that she needed. We were able to give Akosita glasses that gave her clear vision for near work. This will give her more independence and greater confidence to spend time with her grandchildren. Akosita is 61 years old and the trip to Tawake for glasses meant a full day out as the boat she travelled in could only land and take off during high tide. We had boat loads of people arrive for vision testing in Tawake, they came in the morning, waited for us to arrive, we tested eyes and gave out glasses, they then stayed for lunch and left on the afternoon tide. One boat had a four hour ride home. Providing outreach clinics with glasses to these remote villages is the only way for many people to receive glasses and the vision most of us take for granted. The cost of travel alone for many village people is prohibitive.
VOSO in October 2016 was the Charity of the Month at Merediths Restaurant for Dine by Donation VOSO was strongly supported by trustees, former volunteers, optometrists, ophthalmologists, optical suppliers, NZAO, NZ optics and our friends and family. VOSO is very grateful to Michael Meredith and his team for making this fund raiser possible. The funds raised will allow us to continue our good work in the Pacific next year.
From the Chairperson of VOSO:
Regarding a recent article about a Fijian patient who was seen in Christchurch for surgery after experiencing complications during a cataract operation in Fiji, I would like to thank Dr Every and the Directors of Christchurch Eye Surgery for providing the surgery and theatre to help this lady.
VOSO paid for her airfares from Fiji to Christchurch and back so that she could have the surgery to treat the complications experienced during the surgery in Fiji.
I would like to add that VOSO neither condones nor agrees with the comments made in the article by Dr Every. Our surgical and medical teams work closely with the local hospitals and surgeons in the Pacific and feel that they do a great job, given the conditions and surgical resources that they have there. There are risks with every type of surgery, including cataract operations, and this lady unfortunately developed one of them during the procedure on her only eye. We are pleased that she was able to see Dr Every and has had a favourable outcome as a result.
It’s this Wellington couple's mission to give kids the gift of sight.
The article was originally published to Women's Weekly 21 July, 2016
As a child growing up in Fiji, Ravi Dass would often give money to people begging on the street.
“My mother tells me I did it from a very young age,” says the Wellington optometrist, who attributes his social conscience to parents who taught him to help those less fortunate.
It’s an attitude that has seen the 35-year-old and his wife Steph set up a foundation to improve the eyesight of Kiwi kids.
The Foureyes Foundation works with Kiwi primary school-aged children to help diagnose eyesight problems and give free glasses to those who need them.
Ravi, who moved to New Zealand as an eight-year-old, realised there was a need for the foundation after working at a child-centered optometry practice in Auckland.
“I found that around 10-20 per cent of Kiwi kids find school difficult because of their eyesight. But often kids don’t know they have a problem – they just think they can’t focus or have headache or behavioural issues.”
Unfortunately, he says, the government only runs official eyesight checks for newborns, then at pre-school and again at 11 years old. “That means there’s a lot of time for kids’ eyesight to deteriorate.”
It doesn’t help that official screening only checks for a limited range of issues, he adds.
“It doesn’t pick up reading problems, so you can sometimes end up with kids whose learning and development is being held back simply because they need glasses.”
The tipping point was an 18-year-old customer who came to him with vision problems.
“This guy was on the dole, he had no qualifications and couldn’t read or concentrate. He’d gone through school without having his eyes tested or being given glasses. It could have so easily been corrected years ago.”
Last year, Ravi opened his business Mr FourEyes which is run from the Hataitai home he shares with Steph and their two children Manu (4) and four-month-old daughter Nila.
From his purpose-built studio, Ravi fits and makes glasses for customers, which he is usually able to offer at a cheaper rate because he has lower overheads.
The business funds the foundation by operating on a “buy one, gift one” principle.
“Every time a customer buys glasses, we set aside a pair for a child who needs them”.
Steph (37), who gave up her job as an environmental manager to join Ravi in his philanthropic work, says they currently have around 300 pairs of glasses for students who need them.
A recent pilot screening held at a school in Porirua reinforced the need for the foundation.
“Of the 60 or so 10-year-olds we tested, around 19 needed to be tested further,” says Ravi. “Not all of the kids followed up with us but we gave away four pairs of glasses to kids who needed them.”
The couple is set to take their screening process on the road and have already had interest from a school in Invercargill.
“We’d love to talk to remedial teachers because they can identify students with learning difficulties. We can then help determine if these kids are having trouble because of their eyesight, which could be fixed with glasses.”
They’re also busy raising funds for a compact mobile optic screening device that evaluates the strength of children’s eyes and helps identify learning problems caused by poor eyesight. The screening unit is about the size of an iPad, which will allow them to more easily conduct tests, as well as lend it to schools who need it.
“We started a Givealittle page to raise the $14,000 to buy it and so far we’ve been overwhelmed with donations. It’s encouraging to see Kiwis supporting what we’re trying to do.”
Helping others see is second nature to Ravi. In his last year of his optometry degree, he heard about Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO), a New Zealand charitable trust that provides free eye aid to people in the Pacific.
He tagged along for two weeks to assist with screening and sight-saving surgery, as well distributing glasses to people in need.
It changed his life.
“I ended up visiting Tonga and Fiji on eight VOSO trips and was blown away by the difference we could make in people’s lives. Until recently, I was also on the VOSO board but had to step down because the Foundation is taking up so much time.”
Yet the couple remains humble about their achievements.
“Both Ravi and I come from families where you help others wherever you can,” says Steph. “Obviously we need to pay our mortgage and raise our two kids but it’s also important to us to help those who need it.”
Words: Sharon Stephenson
A Cashmere rotary club has awarded a Paul Harris Fellow to a doctor who performed eye surgery on a virtually blind Fijian-Indian man free of charge.
Christchurch West rotary Club president Des Buckner presented the fellow, the highest honour that can be awarded by a rotary, to ophthalmologist Dr. Malcolm McKellar late last month. “He gave totally of his skill and expertise for nothing,” Mr Buckner said.
Dr McKellar said the award came as a total surprise. “I know it means a huge amount to the rotarians, so it was a huge honour,” he said.
The club first heard about Ashvin Kumar, 27, when members Ron Birch and Gordon Hooper went to Fiji on a ‘rotahomes’ project building houses in Mr Kumar’s village. He was suffering from a degenerative eye disorder called keratoconus.
Finding him a likeable young man and moved by his predicament, they rallied the group to raise funds and fly him to New Zealand to have a special contact lens implanted in his eye.
Dr. McKellar, along with anesthetist Sharon King, operated free of charge. St George’s hospital also gave a discount for the use of their theatre.
Mr. Kumar recently returned to Christchurch for a check-up with Dr. McKellar, who said his recovery was going “stunningly” well. “It is a fantastic result. His peripheral vision was pretty horrible, and he looked pretty awful with his thick glasses. Now he sees pretty much as well as we do,” he said.
Mr. Kumar he said it “felt great” to have his vision restored. “It’s much better than my glasses,” he said. My mum’s really excited about this…now she keeps telling me to get married.”