Personal Growth

My Travel Essentials: Seeing is Believing

Personal Growth - September 2015

Anh Kieu left Vietnam as a young child, her family fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War for the safety of Australia.

She trained as an orthoptist, and works in Sydney and rural NSW treating people with eye disorders. Each year, she also travels to rural Vietnam with the charity Vietnam Vision, who provide free cataract operations and other medical treatment to poor people in rural Vietnam, where nearly half a million people suffer from blindness.

MUSIC BOX

This little music box plays La Vie En Rose, a song that my grandpa used to whistle and hum around us all the time. I grew up with him and my dad whistling, and playing lots of old classical music and French music. Vietnam was formerly a French colony and my grandpa worked as a chef on the French Navy ships. He cooked amazing food for us.

OPTHALMOSCOPE

We use these for basic eye examinations to examine the interior of the eye and identify things like glaucoma. We work very closely with an ophthalmologist or eye doctor, to help with diagnosis, vision screening and assisting in surgery and post-operative recovery. In Vietnam, I'll examine people's eyes and if they have cataracts, I'll measure their eye to determine what kind of artificial lens we put in, what lens power they need, for reading or for hand movements, for example.

TAPE MEASURE

I carry a few little measuring devices like this tiny tape measure. Vision is tested at a certain distance, so we have to measure up when we run clinics. From where the patient sits, from their eye level to the chart needs to be three metres, and at home in a clinic, that's easy. But in rural Vietnam, in a makeshift clinic, we might test vision in a hallway, and it can be difficult to get the distance correct, so we are always checking measurements. 

TRAVEL WALLET AND EMBROIDERED BRACELET

My sister gave me this wallet when I first returned to Vietnam and I hide it inside my clothes when travelling, safe from pickpockets. Wrapped around it is a very special embroidered bracelet I bought on my last mission, made by a young paraplegic boy who moved around the markets with rubber thongs on his hands, walking on his hands, selling bracelets to tourists to support himself and his mother, who was very unwell.

BRACELETS AND SCARF

I was four when we left Vietnam. When I turned twenty, I went with my mother and my father to visit our family in Vietnam, for the first time since we had left, and my parents bought me this jade bracelet so I would never forget my heritage. I saw how poor the people were and decided to return to Vietnam, to give back. I always buy bracelets and fabrics from the people that I meet who make and sell them for their livelihood. This beautiful silk scarf is hand-woven, and the red bracelet and the wooden bracelet came from monks in temples that I visited in Cambodia and Laos.

MUSIC BOX

This little music box plays La Vie En Rose, a song that my grandpa used to whistle and hum around us all the time. I grew up with him and my dad whistling, and playing lots of old classical music and French music. Vietnam was formerly a French colony and my grandpa worked as a chef on the French Navy ships. He cooked amazing food for us.

OPTHALMOSCOPE

We use these for basic eye examinations to examine the interior of the eye and identify things like glaucoma. We work very closely with an ophthalmologist or eye doctor, to help with diagnosis, vision screening and assisting in surgery and post-operative recovery. In Vietnam, I'll examine people's eyes and if they have cataracts, I'll measure their eye to determine what kind of artificial lens we put in, what lens power they need, for reading or for hand movements, for example.

VIETNAM VISION PROJECTS AUSTRALIA

Vietnam Vision Projects Australia began as a charity in 2003 and since then they have provided thousands of free cataract surgeries, dental treatments, scholarships and other humanitarian aid to poor and disabled people in Vietnam and Cambodia. They are supported by the Vietnamese Community in Australia, Rotary groups and donors. The VVPA volunteers are from a range of backgrounds, including bankers like my best friend who is fluent in Vietnamese, she does all the administrative paperwork, checking names and getting all the information for us before we come in to see patients.

ANZ supports the vision of individuals like Anh Kieu who are making a difference in the lives of these communities and how she is shaping her world. To find out more about Anh Kieu and the Vietnam Vision Projects Australia, go to http://vvp.org.au/