Volunteers in Focus

It’s Volunteers’ Week 2022 and We’re Celebrating the Work of Our Medical Volunteers!

Using their expertise as ophthalmologists, nurses, and anaesthetists - our medical volunteers train the next generation of eye health workers as well as treat the leading causes of avoidable blindness such as cataracts and trachoma.

The Future of Eyecare

It is predicted that by 2050 avoidable blindness will double, meaning the work of our volunteers is as important as ever. An aging and growing population who are at greater risk of developing conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and cataracts means more people will be at risk of avoidable blindness, especially in low-to-middle income and resource poor countries.

Although those living in high-income countries with eye conditions have better access to treatment and surgeries, our volunteers often tell us they also learn skills which they share with colleagues in the UK.

Here, Orbis medical volunteers share what they’ve learned from those they’ve trained.


Manish Raval

Consultant Anaesthetist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London

You see the world through their eyes. That’s what’s so unique about Orbis.”

Manish Raval is a Consultant Anaesthetist at Moorfield’s. He has been an Orbis Volunteer for over 11 years, training the next generation of anesthetists worldwide in China, India, Jamaica, Mongolia, Peru and Ghana. As well as helping with the current NHS backlog of cataract surgeries, Manish previously worked in the Nightingale hospital at the peak of COVID-19 cases.

Manish notes that volunteering has helped him to develop into practitioner aware of and able to practically educate NHS colleagues on the value of sustainability.

He says: “When you are in a resource poor country every little thing you do has to be justified – it has to have a purpose rather than an ‘I always do this’ approach. That seeps into everything I do now. I have a less is more approach. This is something I try to teach the doctors I train. You don’t have to exhaust everything you have to do the job properly.”

Working in this way has been invaluable to Manish while working with the COVID response team in the Nightingale and the Royal Free hospitals as well as backlogs caused by the pandemic, Over the last year you do what you can where you can, and I volunteered wherever I could, including at the Nightingale and the Royal Free dealing with the COVID response.”


Ann-Marie Abblet

Theatre Practitioner Nurse and Orbis Ambassador

It makes a dif­fer­ence to the lives of gen­er­a­tions to come and I get as much out of it as the peo­ple I am training.”

Ann-Marie Ablett is a theatre nurse in Wales. She has been an Orbis volunteer for 18 years travelling with the Flying Eye Hospital to countries including India, Bangladesh, Zambia and even delivered virtual mental health training to nurses in Peru the UK and USA.

Here she talks about what she gets out of training the next generation of nurses with Orbis.

“We exchange our skills with people in less developed countries. It’s a pleasure to do this. I get as much out of it as those I am training.”

“We work with the instruments the local doctors’ use. We work with that have, it’s challenging, but it makes you think on your feet.

“For me, it’s like going home and it doesn’t matter where you send me – my skills will be the same and I meet colleagues who haven’t had the same opportunities I’ve had and I also learn from them.”


John Ferris

Consultant Ophthalmologist at Gloucestershire Hospital

With­in two hours, third year trainees learn­ing stra­bis­mus surgery were able to teach first years. We could see the legacy.”

John Ferris is a volunteer Ophthalmologist with Orbis and has travelled to Chile and Peru to train the next generation of ophthalmologists. The need for ophthalmologists is already outpacing the number, here John explains how Orbis volunteers are bridging this gap.

“I was on a Flying Eye Hospital visit to Trujillo, Peru in 2018. Day One, and I was teaching strabismus surgery. The first-year trainees couldn’t make it to the plane, so we spent the morning teaching third-year ophthalmology students. Within hours of learning it for themselves, the third years were confident enough to teach the first years.”

“A good way of assessing if you have learned something is to teach it and the hands-on learning had become so embedded in their minds. They [third years] had retained the information and were teaching all the right things.”

“You could see the legacy of one generation of senior trainees passing on what they’d learned. This really works.”

The legacy left by Orbis is so impactful that some trainees go onto join the Orbis team. Dr Andreas Molinari from Peru is one such medic, he was taught by Dr Ferris and now works as Orbis staff teaching Virtual Reality surgery to medical volunteers.

Thanks to our volunteers we are closer to ensuring that trained eye health professionals are accessible everywhere, for everyone.

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