ACS International Schools students reflect on summer 2019 internship

October 2019

This summer, five students from ACS International Schools embarked on a once in a lifetime overseas internship to witness first-hand the sight saving work we do in Vietnam. The internship, now in its nineteenth year, presents the students aged 15 – 16, with a unique opportunity to learn about global eye health.

This year, they visited Can Tho, where we implement various programmes alongside partner hospitals and other amazing organisations. The students, who all have an interest in journalism and medicine, underwent a rigorous application and interview process which tested their interest in international development, as well as their skills to be Orbis’s roving reporters.

Once in Vietnam, they explored several activities which gave them an overall understanding of the work that Orbis does to reduce avoidable blindness. The students visited partner hospitals, interviewed eye health professionals, saw a school eye screening, witnessed live eye surgeries and interviewed patients, plus their families during visits to their homes.

The students also got to soak in a bit of Vietnam’s vibrant culture during a brief stopover in Hanoi and during their stay in the Mekong Delta region.

Highlights from their eight-day visit are captured here in their own words…

Rhiannon

...aspires to become either a doctor or a travel journalist and has an interest in photography.


What the internship meant to Rhiannon

“The Orbis internship has been one of the most rewarding trips ever. I have learned so much about Vietnamese culture and have had the privilege to meet people affected by eye conditions. The work Orbis does in Vietnam is incredible!”

Other internship highlights

On interviewing the Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Can Tho Children’s Hospital Rhiannon said: “Her work in NICU is very impressive and inspiring”

Rhiannon also gave a patient a friendship bracelet to cheer her up post-surgery.

The food, especially a home cooked meal at one of the patient’s houses was also a highlight for Rhiannon: “The food was so tasty, especially the spring rolls, which were the best I’d ever had!”

Rhiannon comforts Nanh following her eye surgery

Gabriel

... has an interest in journalism and medicine.


What the internship meant to Gabriel

“This trip has been life-changing. My experiences have turned me into a more globally aware, cultured and understanding person. I'll never forget the stories I heard and will always appreciate my new outlook on life.”

Other internship highlights

Speaking with people and learning about their experiences was a highlight for Gabriel, in particular interviewing the family (parents and grandparents) of twins who were diagnosed with Retinopathy Of Prematurity (ROP) after being born at 29 weeks. At 4 months old, the twins are thriving. Gabriel had this to say about his interaction with the family: “Their story had such a happy conclusion, that it made me rather emotional and ecstatic about the family’s situation.”

Gabriel said about witnessing live surgeries at Can Tho Eye Hospital: “Being able to actually watch two cataract surgeries highlighted the fact that a lot of these conditions, which greatly decrease people’s quality of life, are so easily treatable in a very short time.”

Gabriel and Truc high five

Aiden

... wants to be a doctor and has an interest in communications.


Having been diagnosed with congenital bilateral cataracts at birth, eye heath is something that is close to Aiden’s heart. Aiden also has a real appreciation of the life changing work ophthalmologists and other eye health professionals do, having been treated in the past by 2 ophthalmologists who are both part of Orbis’s wonderful Volunteer Faculty.

What the internship meant to Aiden

“The past week has been absolutely incredible. We have gotten to see first-hand the fantastic work Orbis does and have had the amazing opportunity to speak to some of the patients and hear their stories. This has been a once in a lifetime experience and I will never forget it!”

Other internship highlights

Interviewing a 10-year-old patient who had just had surgery to correct strabismus (squint) was an experience that stood out for Aiden. She had this to say about the experience: “It was very touching for me to hear from both her and her mother about her story. Her mother told me that without Orbis implementing the children’s eye care programme in Can Tho Eye Hospital, Vang would not have been able to have surgery as it would have been too expensive.”

After speaking with nine-year-old Dai who recently had cataract surgery, Aiden said: “His story was great to listen to and for me personally was very interesting as he also had cataracts so, I myself could somewhat relate to him.”

Aiden sits with 10-year-old Vang

Duzan

... is interested in medicine and writing.


What the internship meant to Duzan

“In this Internship, I was able to recognise that Orbis's work gives Vietnamese children and infants with visual-impairment a second chance to live a happy and healthy life. I have had the most wonderful experience in learning and being engrossed in the Vietnamese culture.

“Orbis's work allowed me to have a realistic and genuine picture of the medical field, as well as what working as an investigative journalist is like.

“It was an unforgettable experience, the lessons of which I will remember for a lifetime.”

Other internship highlights

Meeting with three-year-old Truc, who had had surgery to correct strabismus in one eye was a moment Duzan will never forget. Duzan told us “She was so happy, sassy, and full of life."

Duzan chats with 12-year-old Linh

Mariachiara

... loves writing, the sciences and discovering new cultures.


What the internship meant to Mariachiara

“This experience has been revealing and surprising in every single way possible. The enormous work that Orbis has done and is continuing to do in Vietnam changes lives and seeing this from an outside perspective has been incredible. The feelings of joy and excitement that I personally feel towards the patients shows the successfulness of Orbis all around”

Other internship highlights

Mariachiara loved meeting with Bao and his family. She said that they are “Warm hearted and kind, they were the most emotional and strongest family I have had the privilege to interview and talk to.”

Mariachiara gives 5-year-old Nguyen a friendship bracelet