Monday, 9 February 2015

Rotary Saving Sight in the Pacific - Taveuni Eye Project (TEP)

This is what it is all about ... seeing again after patch removal
The Rotary Club of Taveuni (RCTI) operates an annual Eye Surgery Programme for the removal of Cataracts and Pterigiums.

Their programme focuses on Fijians in remote villages and Islands who could otherwise not afford the travel and accommodation costs.

Each year they conduct around 300 surgeries over 10 days - allowing Fijians to regain their sight and contribute to their families, rather than having to be looked after. Pioneered by Rotarian Geoffrey Amos – this is Rotary Taveuni’s flag ship project – now in its 9th year.

Post-op recovery
DGN Roger Harvey & his wife Georgie went to help in November  - observing “The huge commitment over 10 days from a small club and the many volunteers is both impressive and humbling. Some volunteers use up their holiday - others take time off without pay

RCTI has built up quality Ophthalmology equipment and has the use of 2 surgical rooms at the Taveuni Hospital. Highly skilled volunteers return each year and have developed techniques to deal with the difficult cataracts arising in the Pacific.

In November 2014 an Ophthalmologist from USA (Dr Jeff Rutgar) and New Zealand (Dr David Prendergast) volunteered, supported by a GP from Australia. They were supported by 8 experienced nurses from New Zealand and Fiji.

Both surgical teams at work
The logistics were demanding. The Fiji Blind Foundation conducted an Out Reach programme (with costs funded by Rotary) in June to remote Islands and villages. Once prospective patients were assessed transport arrangements were made to get them to Taveuni Island by bus and ferry. This took several days for some and required courage by many who had never left their village before.

On arrival patients were accommodated simply at the Hospital and a nearby school – mattresses on the open plan floor. Many patients had to stay at Taveuni for 3-5 days because of ferry schedules. A support team of 10 organised by RCTI managed the transport, accommodation, laundry and catering for patients and the medical team. The scheduling of patients was challenging to maintain an even workload for the surgical team.

The theatre nursing team
Patients were medically assessed by GP Dr Gregg Booth and support nurses and detailed records maintained.

Pre-Op procedures included optics measurement and local anaesthetic.

Surgical procedure involved a small incision, removal of the cataract then insertion of an intraocular lens. In the case of Pterigiums (30%) – the membrane covering the eye is removed. This is a more painful recovery.

Post-Op – the eye was protected with a patch – nicknamed “Spiderman”. This was removed the next day, the eye inspected, anti bacterial drops applied, sunglasses supplied and advice given on eye care.

“Patch off day” was emotional with lots of joy, bewilderment and happiness. On our last Patch off day they all sang spontaneously.

Dr Jeff Rutgar commented “It takes a lot of courage to leave their village (sometimes for the 1st time), travel in a boat (mostly blind). Put their trust in strangers – and their quality of life in hands of foreign strangers. It is an honour to be able to help them – Dignifies our work

And the patients?

Patient Shoie – “I was almost completely blind. I couldn’t help at home – I was embarrassed. My children will now come and see me – 1st time in 10 years”

Patient Afeca “This is a beautiful day First time I can see my own dress – no pain. Excited to see my Grand children the first time

Patient Kustino is a Lambasa farmer of taro & kava.” My parents have had to look after it. After 6 years of frustration I can see well now. I am very thankful

Patient Annie  I had to retire – My Grand children led me around the village. Now I can lead them through life

Plans are well advanced for the 2015 Rotary Taveuni Eye Project. The cost will be NZ$100,000.

A Global Grant will be sought again.

Please help Rotary continue restoring sight in Fiji
Via RNZWCS Ltd (TAX DEDUCTABLE in New Zealand):
RNZWCS Westpac Account
or Cheque to:
PO Box 20309
Christchurch 8543, New Zealand

RNZWCS Ltd Charities Services Reg. No. CC26860

Reference the Taveuni Eye Program (TEP) and include your Club name.

Direct to Taveuni Rotary (NOT Tax Deductable in New Zealand):
ASB Bank Limited, 12 Jellicoe Street, Auckland 1010
Account Name: Rotary Club of Taveuni Island Bank
BSP Number: 12-3110
Account Number: 0055882
Funds can be sent to: Rotary Club of Taveuni Island NZ office:

For more information contact:   Geoffrey Amos, Rotary Club of Taveuni Island,

Email via:; Ph: +679 9992371

Or:  DGN Roger L Harvey

Photo credit:  Bula Time Photography            

Included in April
Rotary Down Under