Living our purpose through the gift of sight


By Helen Summers, Optometrist.

While many of us were resting up and recharging after a bumper 2022, Senior Optometrist Helen Summers was spending her ‘downtime’ helping deliver much needed eye care to people in Cambodia.

Truly living our values and purpose, Helen has shared her experience in Cambodia, highlighting the amazing impact simple care can have on someone life.

Just before Christmas, I returned from Cambodia where I was privileged to provide eye care as a volunteer working with Cambodia Vision.

Cambodia Vision works with small provincial towns in Cambodia, focusing on blindness prevention and giving the gift of sight.

Volunteer medical team (surgeons, nurses, GPs, Pharmacists and Optometrists) from Australia carry out cataract procedures and medical care completely free of charge to the locals.

Helen Summers, Optometrist

This time away in Cambodia was rewarding, yet also challenging, confronting and sometimes overwhelming.

Helen Summers, Optometrist

Seeing the challenges these communities face, but also seeing the positive impact of eye care helping to retore and improve sight.

Our day would begin at 6.30am where there were already over 150 people waiting to see us for eye health needs, and that number continued to grow throughout the day. We had people who had travelled for days in need of care, while other patiently waited hours and days to be seen.

Our volunteer team, consisting of optometrists, surgeons, nurses, orthoptists, translators and many others treated more than 2000 people, which included 260 surgeries.

We handed out 1500 pairs of readymade glasses, 2600 sunglasses, and over 2000 lubricants, as well as glaucoma and anti-inflammatory drops.

It was extremely fulfilling to help so many people, but equally as heartbreaking to inform the families when sight could not be restored due to untreated and longstanding glaucoma, diabetes and retinal detachments. There were many tears with the many stories of loss of hope.

Helen Summers, Optometrist

There were amazing stories when the gift of sight was given, whether it be readymades or successful cataract surgery.

Helen Summers, Optometrist

The Cambodian people were so humble, appreciative and so patient during our stay. Many had suffered the trauma of living in the reign of Khmer Rouge, and their stories of suffering were incredibly sad and put our own challenges into perspective. We did and can continue to learn so much from these wonderful people.

I am delighted that Bupa Optical & Hearing intend to expand support to programs like Cambodia Vision – as a global leader in heath and care we have a responsibility to build awareness and contribute.

We only have to look out our purpose of helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world to know we have the mandate to make change.

I would like to thank Bupa Optical & Hearing – particularly Guneet Sawhney, Adrian Kemp, Karen Makin and Sharon O’Rourke – for their continued support of the work our Darwin team do throughout the regional and remote communities of the Northern Territory. This has a profound impact on the lives of so many people and is something I and the entire Darwin team are passionately dedicated to supporting.

I look forward to sharing more stories of the amazing impact the gift of sight can have on the lives of people here in Australia and around the world.

Helen Summers is the Senior Optometrist at Bupa Optical & Hearing’s Helen Summers Optometrist store in Darwin, Northern Territory.

The HSO Darwin team were recognised for their contributions to eye health in remote and regional Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory and Arnhem Land in 2022, winning:

  • Bupa Health Services ‘Sustainability’ Award.
  • Bupa #GlobalGratitude Award.
  • Bupa Global Award for Caring.