From Latest news

The team’s first training to Aboriginal Health Workers in rural NSW

After the first year working with Indigenous Australians in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District in Griffith (NSW), the team provided the very first training session on vision screening for the local Aboriginal nurses and support staff. The training also included an ophthalmic equipment kit to help them to provide their outreach services. Continuous training not only empowers the local staff but increases their ability to undertake local cataract blindness procedures in the future.

As a result of this training, the current nursing staff are now capable to go out into the communities and screen patients and determine what follow up action is necessary. This will also mean more access to eye care services to more remote and underserved Aboriginal communities around the district. Unfortunately, 35 % of Indigenous adults have never had an eye exam so including vision screening in the current outreach programs will help lower this alarming statistic. 

There is still much needed assistance to reduce the waiting list reduction for cataract surgery. This reflects the horrible statistics showing that 1 out of 3 indigenous people go blind. Regular surgical and consulting visits by our volunteering doctors and nursing team, will be necessary to reduce the rate of blindness.

Those visits will also provide training opportunities for other registrars,medical students and together with the nursing staff, with a special priority in surgical skills and theatre efficiency.

That is why this year, we will be relying more on your support so that together we will be able to implement these activities as soon as possible.

Update from Sumba

Although there are still some limitations caused by the pandemic, Dr Mark Ellis AM and the team are planning to go to Sumba early in 2023. In the meantime, Dr Ellis has been busy organising some ongoing training session via ZOOM in conjunction with the University of Hasunuddin (UNHAS) Makassar ophthalmologists to upskill the local Sumba Foundation doctors and the Sumba Eye Program sponsored Eye Care Nurses (ECNs) in Sumba, East Indonesia.

Since COVID has prevented face-to-face teaching, the online training sessions will be aiming to provide some education and instruction in basic eye care for the nurses to be able to provide spectacles corrections. Local doctors also will benefit from the training giving them the opportunity to communicate with our team of doctors to discuss some of the difficult cases that they have currently. The long-term goal is to have at least a monthly teaching session involving all members in mutual education.
Mr Peter Lewis OAM and Mr Peter Stewart OAM, both directors of the program and Optometrists have provided in country training to the nurses and have been the conduit for obtaining spectacles either here in Australia or better through local Indonesian companies.

Dr Ellis hopes to raise enough funds this year so that the Sumba Eye Program can be involved with eye care delivery physically on the Island. With your generous support, the team is hoping to

continue with:
• Ongoing training and upgrading skills for more local doctors and nurses
• Continuing the trips to Sumba with village screening and surgical visits in collaboration with the PERDAMI of South Sulawesi.
• to give access to eye care to more places on the Sumba Island by setting up more permanent eye clinics.

Providing valuable training in the Philippines

Gaining invaluable experience of managing actual patients

Further training was provided in Santiago City for the local nurses and support staff, as well as equipment supply. Continuous training adds a more sustainable increase in the capacity to undertake local cataract blindness procedures in the future. The success of the training was highlighted when in May this year Foresight completed its seventh tour of duty. The vision screening program meant that the nursing staff were now capable to go out into the communities and screen patients and determine what follow up action was necessary. Many screening trips were undertaken, and a significant number of potentially operable cataract patients were identified and referred for assessment. Many were operated on by local Ophthalmologists and in May our team was able to complete 138 surgical procedures during their visit.

The nurses who attended our last training in Santiago City, Philippines

This was a sign that there is still a great need to provide eye care service in the outskirt of Santiago City as the people screened cannot afford treatment. Your donations have made and continue to make long term sustainable differences to the lives of no less than 1,000 people and their families.

They thank you.

Achieving sustainability in Bangladesh

Achieving sustainability in Bangladesh

It has been over 40 years since Professor Billson went to Chittagong and helped build the Eye Infirmary Hospital and the Training Complex. In his many visits, he trained staff and developed the facility which in turn was able to create outreach programs. In 2003 the facility celebrated one million sight-saving operations.

A normal day at the hospital with many patients attending the daily clinic

The same facility now sees 1,000 patients a day and performs 150 Cataract surgeries each day, six days per week. We are working on returning to Bangladesh and determine where further support is needed. The Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Complex (CEITC) has provided medical and paramedical staff training for eight base eye hospitals in Bangladesh.

Rona will be able to live a normal life

Rona will be able to live a normal life

Five years old Rona had poor eyesight for a while and had difficulty seeing objects at a distance.

Rona undergoing her eye examination

Unfortunately, she and her family lived three hours away from the hospital and could not afford either trip or the 20,000 pesos (about $600) required for surgery. Luckily, her father heard about our medical visits and made sure Rona could be seen by our team. Sadly, Rona, the smallest and youngest patient during that mission, may have retinoblastoma, a life-threatening condition.

After a successful surgery, Rona can now go back to what she likes to do the most, which is “drawing and writing”.  She is looking forward to starting school and her future looks much brighter.

Rona ready for her surgery

Her family were very thankful that they do not need to worry now as Rona will have her sight restored and will be able to live a normal life. As for Rona, she is happy as she can see “clearer”!

Update from the Philippines

A record number of patients received the gift of sight when our medical volunteers worked at the Adventist Hospital, Santiago City in the Philippines for our seventh annual surgical trip, in partnership with Open Heart International.

142 people, many of them children, had their eyesight restored by cataract surgery thanks to local doctors and nurses and our medical team, led by Associate professor, Geoffrey Painter. The team of local nurses that were trained last year in eye screening were instrumental in identifying and referring patients to our clinic from remote northern regions of the Philippines. Thank you to our generous donors for making these trips reality that make a huge, life-changing impact on the most disadvantaged people in the Philippines.

Exciting New Partnerships

In addition to our ongoing work with Open Heart International, we are excited to announce that Foresight has partnered with the Rotary Club to support our eye screening training program in the Cagayan Valley, in the north of the Philippines. As a result, we have trained 10 local nurses to conduct eye screening in remote communities where blindness rates are the worst in the Philippines.

Our Rotary partnership helps to build sustainability in our programs and empower local medical staff to support the programs that we have initiated.

Foresight has also partnered with eyewear brand Oscar Wylee, which has donated 50,000 spectacle frames that have been sent to the Solomon Islands optical workshop Foresight founded eight years ago in Honiara, and are being dispensed by the staff at the National Referral Hospital to those in need.

Meet Remy

Meet Remy Di Ponio, Foresight’s General Manager

Remy has been with Foresight for 10 years and is responsible for the coordination of all of Foresight’s activities, from projects to fundraising, relationship management, planning, reporting and governance.

What is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is working with the most remarkable people, from our board members, doctors, volunteers all the way to the local people in countries where we work.

The most rewarding part has been seeing and experiencing the impact and the difference that Foresight as a whole has made in people’s lives over the years. Throughout my entire journey here at Foresight my motivation and passion has been inspired by those stories and they continue to drive me every day.

Where have you travelled as part of your work?

I have had the privilege to travel across a few countries in the Asia-Pacific region; to work and improve on how best we can help the locals particularly in the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. This year, we are also planning to travel to Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Why should people donate?

Every time I come back from an overseas trip I realise how much more needs to be done in those countries around our region. To give a chance to those people still needing to gain access to good-quality eye care, we need more support from people here in Australia.

We are able to help the poorest people in a very cost-effective way. Being a small organisation we do not have big overheads and so most of the donations received go towards the people that we help.

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Prof Billson and I are planning to go back to Bangladesh later this year where everything started for Foresight over 40 years ago. I cannot wait to visit the Chittagong Eye Hospital – the place that Prof Billson helped set up, as well as meeting the local doctors that Prof Billson trained and supported over the years. Fast-forward 40 years and today the hospital sees 1000 patients a day and local doctors who have been trained by Prof Billson now perform about 120 cataract surgeries a day, which is extraordinary! I am not sure how many organisations out there can be proud of such results that Foresight has achieved over so many decades in Bangladesh.


Memories of Foresight in China

Foresight has a rich and long history of making a difference to the sight of millions of people in developing countries. One country we have worked extensively in is China.

Our founder Professor Frank Billson AO travelled to China regularly in the 1980s. He was an honorary professor at Tianjin Medical University in northern China and visited other parts of China including Beijing and Chongqing.

In the above photograph, taken in 1987, Prof Billson is pictured with a group of local ophthalmologists and trainees. At the time, Prof Billson was a visiting professor, teaching microsurgery as part of a program to upskill local doctors. The Chinese doctors are now all senior doctors or professors.

During Prof Billson’s work in Tianjin, he helped found an intraocular lens factory, producing affordable intraocular lenses until this day. These lenses are used to treat cataracts and significantly cut the cost of restoring sight. The importance of setting up a local factory helped greatly in reducing the costs and increased accessibility for Chinese people needing the lenses.

The factory was one of the first examples of Foresight’s philosophy of empowering local communities, which is a continuing reminder of Prof Billson and Foresight’s impact.


Our Team on the ground in the Philippines

In November 2018, our team went to the Philippines to provide training to local eye nurses. Our Foresight Director and Medical Adviser, A/Professor Geoffrey Painter, Dr Dominic McCall and Nurse Leader Kerrie Legg led an intensive training program for eye nurses at our partner hospital in Santiago City, situated in the Cagayan Valley, a rural area more than ten hours’ drive north of Manila.
With a large population, high levels of poverty and no comprehensive eye-care services, this region has one of the highest rates of blindness in the Philippines.
Eye nurses play a crucial role by providing ongoing care, testing and education. Our vision for this project has always been to invest in local training and furthering capacity on the ground. A local nurse who can go out to the communities with modern equipment and up-to-date training in sight tests, as well as providing health education to locals, ensures we can get to help more patients, especially young children.
12 nurses attended the training, passed their exams and are now competent in eye examination and vision screening.
During the training, the group had practical application of the screening of a village close to the Cagayan Airport, about 45 minutes drive from Santiago City. 35 patients were visited and the team found 8 people affected by cataracts.
This was a clear sign that there is still a great need to provide eye care services to the outskirts of Santiago City, as the people who were screened could not afford treatment.