Volunteers' Week: Volunteering in Vietnam

June 2020

To further celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we had a chat with Gill Adams. She specialises in paediatric ophthalmology. Gill spoke to us about why she volunteers with Orbis and her visits to Vietnam, most recently in 2018.

The long-term impact of training local medical staff is something Gill feels very passionate about and what keeps her coming back to Orbis: “I went to Vietnam to teach [medical staff] how to look after premature babies, which is a time critical treatment. The person I trained, trained tens of other people which causes a ripple effect across the country, which means these babies can be looked after. If you train one person, they become someone who can train other people. It’s about sharing the knowledge and the skills around the world and empowering people to do the surgery in their communities and their hospitals.”

While working in Vietnam, Gill worked with those she trained to treat children and adults. Prior to the trip, they’d use Cybersight, Orbis’s online training platform, to identify patients who needed treatment. As Gill explains, “We had pre-screened them which made it very effective. I did the first case and the trainee did the other twenty. We started from not doing very much to [her] really being as comfortable as you can be with surgery so that she could train other people.”

While Gill herself is an impressive medical volunteer, what struck her in Vietnam was the determination and passion of those she trained, “One [trainee] was 39 and a half weeks pregnant. She got pregnant after the mission was set up and didn’t want to miss it. She was quite junior, and she was with us. I got her to do her first ever squint operation and she went into labour that night. She so did not want to miss the opportunity to learn some surgery. We had to find a case for her to do!”

The passion and determination of medical staff has been felt by all of us during the pandemic. Not just in the UK but across the world. As Gill points out, “I know colleagues who have gone out to the Nightingale and I have to say thank you on behalf of all of us. You are helping people in dire need.”

“I think every country in the world virtually has been touched by this. We have learnt form colleagues in Italy, Spain and France. Everyone needs the knowledge gained from other people to make their healthcare better. It’s not just us sending it to other people. Across the world it is a healthcare family.”

We echo Gill’s praise and have created this special animation for all medical volunteers in the Orbis family: