Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not everyone plays politics with Fiji

from w. While the noise-makers carry on in Niue about Fiji and want to further treat Fiji as a naughty boy in the corner - and perhaps rightly so, there are also New Zealanders and Aussies getting past politics (which hurts ordinary people) to bring some health and wellness to Fiji society. Such an example is Dr Brown who went to Labasa to restore sight, a wonderful gift. I read this in the Fiji Times this morning from the flat in Namadi and though it worthwhile to find it on-line to post here. Again I reiterate my view that developing relationships between people in Fiji and those in other countries is a very good thing to do.

Dr Brown's gift of sight by THERESA RALOGAIVAU
Friday, August 22, 2008

FOR eighteen years Dr Michael Brown has made a journey that takes him across the Pacific, past the jet setting, luxurious resorts of Nadi and into the heart of the cane fields of Labasa. His long journey is motivated by giving someone the invaluable gift of sight.

I first met Dr Brown in a little, crowded office of the Eye Department at the Labasa Hospital. He had just been past a long fortnight of attending to more than one thousand patients with eye ailments from around the Northern Division but his friendly smile hardly betrayed that fact.

"It's just been great to be back working with the rural communities here. My services are needed here and that brings me back every year," he said.

That was his response to my question on what motivates a man for 18 years to leave behind the comforts of home and life in Christchurch, New Zealand.

His philanthropy story began way back when he was a child growing up with a mother who could only see out of one eye."I've been an optometrist for 33 years and it all started when I realised that mom could not see out of one eye because she had suffered a retina detachment," he explained the reason for his career choice."But mind you all six siblings couldn't get away with anything because she always found out," he joked.

So began a determination to succeed as an eye doctor and to give to someone what he couldn't help his mother with. "From then on I was motivated to give to someone the gift of sight. That's why I always come back to Fiji because I know that my services are so needed here," he said.

Dr Brown is a member of the Voluntary Overseas Ophthalmic Organisation and when he comes to Fiji as part of the Sight First Project of the Lions Club of Labasa, apart from just helping with corrective eye surgeries they also distribute spectacles to hundreds of people. "Some cannot afford to buy even a pair of glasses so when they are able to see the world anew with a new pair it delights us," he said."As always the highlight of my trip is when the bandage is removed from someone's eye and they see for the first time or after a long time.It is a traumatic moment, the transition from the dark to the light within the space of a few seconds when their eyes register. It's a beautiful moment that always drags me back to Fiji. I know that we cannot help everyone, but if we can change one life than it's all worthwhile in the end, because if everyone did a little than a little bit becomes a lot."

The most common eye problem in the division is cataracts mainly because of the high level of sunshine all year round.

"They are exposed to a lot of the ultraviolet rays of the sun and because they don't wear 'sunnies' or protect their eyes it gets affected," he added.

Working in the rural areas always leaves an indelible mark.

"I learn a lot about hospitality, friendliness and the good nature of the community that accepts their quarter in life with a lot of heart," he said. "On these trips I come and help but I learn a lot in the process like working together as a team in not the best of conditions. There's always a new lesson to take home at the end of the trip." But the best reward that lingers in his memory until he returns a year later are the smiling faces and teary eyes of those he has helped to see again.

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