Transforming One Billion Lives

For our March formal dinner, we had the honour of meeting and listening to Jude Stern. Jude leads the strategic knowledge agenda for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. 

The evening started with an Acknowledgement of Country and the use of clapping sticks by residents Logan and Maher. We experienced a fantastic performance from Alex on the cello, who must be congratulated for her flexibility with a last-minute change of plans.

Sitting with Jude, the table was full of questions and discussions. We got an insight into how global eye health is not only treatment but also an awareness that eyesight can be improved and access to facilities and resources from glasses to cataract surgery.  She answered all our questions including global trends of myopia (short-sightedness) and shared a few fun stories about her and Shana’s youth.

Following dinner, Jude talked to us about the challenges of eye care globally. Her interactive presentation covered a wide range of interesting points. We closed our eyes and imagined the things we would struggle with if we were blind. She surveyed the room to find nearly all the residents had had some experience with eye care. In Australia, we can easily get eye tests and glasses are commonplace and accessible to people of all ages. Unfortunately, this is not the case for people across the globe.

Jude shared the story of Emmanuel, who was a child in Malawi at a blind school. Researchers found that 90% of students at the school could have their eyesight corrected with glasses. Without any facilities in the country to make glasses, they jumped through several loopholes to get custom glasses made in South Africa and delivered to the students. Throughout the story, the importance of glasses was emphasised, but the more startling realisation was how once the glasses were broken, there was no way for them to get fixed due to a lack of facilities in the region at that time.

One of the great things about Jude’s presentation was her positive outlook. Despite the difficulties those in her area faced, there wasn’t a negative spin put on governments or institutions. Rather she expressed confidence our generation would be able to overcome the various challenges and provide eye care to various people around the world. I am extremely glad I was able to learn from Jude and I know that I along with other residents left the event with a greater knowledge and awareness of the importance and significance of eye care to people around the globe.


Article by: Maka Mutyiri, Mandelbaum resident