A Specsavers Wollongong optometrist is eager to do more volunteer work in Papua New Guinea after using her skills in some of the most remote communities in the world.
Katherine La has just returned home after taking part in an outreach trip to provide eye care.
After deciding it was what she wanted to do in 2016 she and a uni friend became part of a team of volunteers on board a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Medical Ship in May. Their mission was to administer optometry care to residents living in the Western Province.
The team treated 350 patients and distributed over 200 pairs of glasses donated by customers of Specsavers Wollongong. Ms La moved to the Illawarra after graduating from the University of New South Wales five years ago.
“I have fallen in love with the Wollongong lifestyle,” she said.
But she knows how lucky she is to live in the Illawarra and is aware of how many people in the world don’t have access to what many Australians do.
“Every day we traveled by boat to a different village to treat PNG residents who in most cases had never seen an optometrist. The ship docked in the river and we would get on little boats and go to a remote community. We carried out eye examinations, checked for cataracts and educated patients about the importance of eye health, hygiene and sun protection. You actually make a real difference. They have no access to glasses at all. Some places don’t even have access to clean water”.
Ms La said being able to use her training and skills as a volunteer was incredibly rewarding.
“I could treat residents firsthand and see the impact that clearer vision had on the PNG community,” she said.
Ms La said it was wonderful to work alongside a team of medical professionals who share a similar passion for improving medical resources in remote and deprived communities. The experience has inspired her to do it again.
“I hope to one day return to PNG with YWAM on another mission. “I want to go back to the same place,” she said.
The Specsavers Wollongong team helped collect glasses for her to prescribe. And they made a big difference to the quality of people’s lives. “I would like to say a huge thank you to the Wollongong community.”