Losing your eyesight is a thought almost impossible to imagine. But in the world’s most remote regions, it is a very real scenario that is affecting millions of lives.
To fight preventable blindness across the globe, Orbis International is dedicated to providing life-changing eye care for all. Not only do they perform the highest quality optical surgeries on board their Flying Eye Hospital, but they are also committed to training local medical professionals who can continue the great work into the future.
That’s where Amelia Geary comes in. As the Director of Programme Development and Quality, her motivation is building the infrastructure for local health systems. Through her advice and dedication, the work of Orbis is able to make a continual impact.
“What makes Orbis different is the focus on training. Instead of going in and doing everything ourselves, we want to make sure that the local medical team will be able to provide that same high quality eye care even after we’ve gone.
This current role is just one of the many fascinating steps Amelia has taken during her career. Amongst a diverse portfolio of jobs in places such as South Africa and Senegal, she has always followed her passion for helping others.
The seeds for that journey were first planted when she was 13 years old. On a trip from her home in New York City to her Godmother’s village in Kenya, Amelia’s eyes were opened to the extreme poverty in some parts of Africa.
“In some of the places I visited, it often doesn’t matter how hard you work, how smart you are or how pretty you are. In such crippling poverty, people don’t get out. That’s what inspired me to get involved in this line of work."
"I wanted every child to feel like they could create a better life.”
Today, she is able to see first-hand that change is possible. Having spent four years on board the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, Amelia has witnessed the transformation of communities and the difference that restored sight can make.
“It’s equally as rewarding to see physicians or nurses become competent high-skilled medical professionals and take on the responsibility for their community.”
Of course, with so many varying locations and cultures to consider, there are the inevitable challenges that come with her job.
“What we really try to promote at Orbis is a culture of reciprocity. We want one generation of doctors helping to train the next. But often there are so few resources, there’s actually a culture of competition. So part of the job is changing the behaviour of local medical professionals so that they see their peers not as competition, but as leaders for the future.”
In most cases, Amelia’s implemented ideas have been well received and she has learned to approach each place, and even each local doctor, in a different way.
“It’s too simplistic to paint the world with big brushstrokes. People are individuals and they have different needs, wants, hopes and dreams. You can’t assume that, just because you’ve done it one way in a hundred other countries, that this person will be the same. But as long as we’re all working towards the same goal, that’s the right path to be on.”
OMEGA is an ardent supporter and partner of Orbis International. Along with several documentaries and fundraising efforts, the brand also provides a cuddly teddy bear for every young patient. This helps the doctors to explain the surgery and also gives the children a comforting friend during their scary ordeal. In Amelia’s experience, this addition plays a vital role.
“The teddy bear is something that kids all over the world, regardless of culture, religion or language can identify with. It makes them feel like they’re going to be ok. You can always see that every little kid feels better once you put that teddy bear in their hands.”
In her own hands, Amelia sees more opportunity to help others in the future. As she lays out her hopes and plans within Orbis International, her overall ambition remains as resolute as it has done since she was 13 years old.
“A business’s bottom line is its profit margin, but our bottom line at Orbis is how many lives we’re changing. As I grow, I hope that number grows as a direct result of what I’m doing.”