People may need eye care and vision correction for different reasons. They may need glasses or have a related medical issue that requires surgery. Regardless of the reason, eye care can change a person’s life. If you wear glasses or contacts, imagine having to live without them. If you had very poor vision, you wouldn’t be able to see the faces of your friends and family; you wouldn’t be able to safely cross the street; you wouldn’t be able to watch a movie or even read a book. When we correct our patients eye problems, they can reintegrate into their community and once again contribute to their society. With better vision, patients can see their family, safely navigate their village and return to work. About 34% of patients end up needing glasses.
It is our goal help as many poor people in S.E. Asia with their eyesight as we can.We have been successful inviting opticians, optometrists and orthoptists to join our eye camps, allowing us to see about 250 people on a day.
We are fully aware that with these numbers of people to check, we need an experienced group of of people doing the basic vision testing. Most of them have been with Lanna Ta Dee since the beginning and attended many training days . It is our goal to keep improving on the quality of our missions by training and using high quality instruments such as a Digital Fundus camera.
Not many outreach organisations in eye care work where they live. Because Lanna Ta Dee works locally, we have the opportunity to refer patients for further care and check up on them to make sure they get the treatment they need. That is why Lanna Ta Dee has earned the support of the Ministry of Health and many eye doctors.
Our next step in quality improvement is glaucoma testing and fundus imaging. Glaucoma is a nasty disease; often you don’t notice anything until the damage is done. It is very treatable with laser treatment or drops if discovered early.
A fundus camera is an instrument to make an image of the back of the eye, the retina. It is possible to examine the health of the retina and forward the image to a Ophthalmologist for consultation via the internet. Diabetes is a common disease among tribal people and often causes damage to the retina. This damaging process is not reversible but can be halted with proper treatment.
My belief is that the focus should be on the person who you are trying to help, not on the eye or vision problem itself. It is understandable that NGOs and manufacturers look for solutions to fix vision problems in developing countries, but if the person doesn’t use the eye correction they are given, we just end up with a feel-good photo opportunity and Westerners congratulating each other on another job well done.
So, in my opinion it is crucial to find the needs of the people you are assisting: what solutions are acceptable for them and affordable for those trying to help. I’m sure there are cases that people in need would wear anything to be able to see, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable the spectacles may be, but Lanna Ta Dee works to ensure that patients are treated with the same respect as anyone else looking for a new pair of glasses.
There are three different type of systems in providing rural eye care:
There is not a single best choice, it depends on the area you are working and financial resources. Take a look at a few considerations:
My long term vision in S.E. Asia is to receive the new (overstock) frames donated, train local people how to do a simple eye test and teach someone to cut the lenses Ideally we can train more local people to do basic eyetesting, I have done this in my practice in Holland, teaching simple eye testing to women from Ghana. If their English is good enough, they can master a simple eye test in 10 days. Then, they can teach their skills to others and you start creating something long-lasting.
We are thankful for all the support from our volunteers and sponsors and look forward to helping many more people in S.E. Asia.
"I am a Scottish Optometrist who graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2003 and worked in Scotland for five years before moving to the U.S.A, where I studied at the New England College of Optometry in Boston and went on to complete a residency in ocular disease at the VA Medical Centre in Vermont.I’ve spent the past three years working in private practice in Vermont but now plan to go to Thailand at the beginning of 2015 to volunteer with the Lanna Ta Dee team. Having the opportunity to volunteer with Lanna Ta Dee, a group whose philosophy and mission I strongly agree with, will allow me to experience Thailand on a deeper level and give back to the Thai people by using my skills as an optometrist to provide eye care to those who might not otherwise have access to it.”
"I am a Dutch Orthoptic and Optometric student and currently in my graduation year for both studies. Originally started studying Orthopty but found out during my internships that I wanted to learn more about the eye. I felt I didn`t knew and couldn`t do enough and this gave me the inspiration to also start with Optometry. Before my study I used to be in the National Team of Archery and always wanted to reach the top in everything. With my new passion for eyes I wanted to reach more goals and found out that Stichting Zienderogen was helping the ones in need of eye care.
With Stichting Zienderogen and Lanna Ta Dee I have been in Chiang Mai for two weeks and experienced the best of all feelings. Working in my profession and helping the ones in need was a whole new kind of adventure. To see what kind of difference one can make and what kind of impact it makes on others. I look back on a great coöperation with a great team that Lanna Ta Dee makes available!”
"My name is Bianca Schut, optician, contact-lens specialist, and since 2014, a graduate of the Hogeschool Utrecht of Optometry. After working in retail sinds 1999 I started working as a professional service manager for NKL Contactlenzen, a Dutch contact-lens manufacturer in 2008. Knowing that the medical care in the Netherlands is so well organized in contrast to the eye care in other parts of the world, I registered myself as a volunteer at Stichting Zienderogen after my graduation.
In January 2016 I was sent to Chiang Mai, Thailand to provide eye care to several hill tribe populations, together with the volunteers of the Lanna Ta Dee foundation. Working in this team of enthusiastic volunteers was absolutely unforgettable; knowing to help people regaining an acceptable eye sight and giving them the possibility keep earning their income by sewing and crafting felt as a very grateful job.
I’m very thankful that I was part of this team and had the ability to make a small difference.”
Tjeerd (T.J.) Bouma, Retired Optometrist
"I am a retired Dutch Optometrist living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was owner of five optical outlets and a hearing aid clinic in the Rotterdam area. Myself, most people call me T.J., and my wife Yvonne lived on Sanibel Island, Florida for 10 years and then moved to Auckland, New Zealand and lived there for 7 years. After spending a month in Chiang Mai, we decided that Chiang Mai would be the ideal place to retire. Shortly after arriving, I was asked to continue the Lanna Ta Dee programme: organizing eye-clinics for the poorest in Thailand. The eye clinics have become a passion for me. There is no greater award in our profession than to see 100-250 people waiting to see me because they have an eye problem. And, in many cases, you can actually help them."