Mission Trip to Poipet

SOP Mission Trip to Poipet, Cambodia

Sometimes, we don’t know what ideal looks like till someone comes along and changes the lens through which we see the world. And that’s exactly what the good folks from the Society of Opticianry Practitioners (Singapore) did. Literally. They embarked on a 5 day mission trip to Poipet, Cambodia, from 26 – 30 Aug 2012, partnering Cambodian Hope Organization (CHO) to give Cambodians a chance to have their vision corrected so that their world becomes brighter and more joyful.

I’m so happy that the team has such a big heart to bless people from countries that are less privileged. It was a yes right from the beginning when I was introduced to them through my dad’s friend, Ivan who is a member of the Society. Instead of being uncomfortable with having to transport equipment and spectacles, to live and conduct eye tests in less than adequate conditions, they were all smiles and banter as they constantly made fun of each other and joyfully served the community.

Over 3 days, we conducted eye tests for about 400 people, including the staff of CHO, children and teachers at Safe Haven, a children’s home and 2 villages, Ouampel Village and Toul Pongrow Village. While the children and young people had perfect eyesight and little problems, a lot of elderly resided in the villages and apart from long-sightedness, we encountered many more with eye conditions such as cataracts or worse, injuries such as missing eye sockets. Ouampel Village has many former Khmer Rouge soldiers and they limped in with crutches while the scars and weather-beaten faces told the stories. It was heart-wrenching for me, but possibly “interesting” for the opticians as they inspected and debated on their conditions. It was sad to inform villagers that we could do nothing for them because of their cataracts, sad to know that some people have been going about daily living with 70 – 80% blindness. Yet they are not of age nor in a position to stay home and enjoy retirement. Farmers, due to prolong exposure to the sun’s harmful rays increase their chances of getting cataracts but there is little to reverse the effects.

On the bright side, the team blessed many with spectacles that would correct their vision and improve their standard of living, especially those who sew, cook, make handicrafts etc. They also gave out sunglasses with UV400 protection. It was funny to see how friends reacted to the villagers new “look” though. The team then donated boxes of spectacles to CHO and briefly trained a staff to test and dispense long-sighted specs if necessary.

Moving forward, they are contributing photos and information so CHO can teach and share about the importance of protecting our eyes. Education and awareness is key. This is definitely not a one-off event, I’m grateful the team believed in CHO’s vision and manage to foster a friendship with us. They were even kind enough to contribute their hair to be washed, blown, cut and dyed by girls in training at the social business. Thank you for your heart, your kindness, your joy in serving and your commitment to improving the lives of many people who are less privileged.

Melissa Seet

On behalf of Cambodian Hope Organization