Father of two young children, Alito, has been working as an Eye Care Nurse in East Timor for six years. “…in East Timor people are not educated, they live in the rural areas and there it is difficult to get access to the media. That’s why they live with blindness as they don’t know where they can go. That is why I want to work as an eye care nurse, I like to be helpful to them like when they have some refraction, I can help them with their glasses so that they can do their job and daily activity.”

Alito and his colleague Bernadino visited Australia in May to continue their training and to receive additional mentoring from local optometrists. They visited optometry practices in Melbourne and Hobart, the Eye and Ear Hospital, in Melbourne and attended the Southern Regional Congress.

Their visit to Australia was organized by Micheal Knipe and Provision Optometry Teams and was designed to enhance their clinical skills and assist with their professional development. It was an incredible experience for Alito and Bernadino, as well as for some of Optometry Giving Sight’s donors who got the chance to meet them. “People are very happy now with the glasses and to have eye care nurses able to prescribe them and provide eye care because at the time of independence there weren’t any eye care nurses,” said Alito. “Now for people even in the rural areas they have access because we also do some outreach to the rural area, so this is something different compare to before.”

When asked how his patients reach the hospital Alito said “Walk on foot, no transportation, it could take three or four hours, some people even more. Timor is not flat, lot of mountains, it is a problem. People travel far for their eye exams.” Although the situation has improved over the last few years, there are still very few eye care professionals in East Timor. “Maybe in total there are 10, so in some districts there are no eye care nurses. Like in my district there is 90,000 people and only myself is there, so I think I am very happy with this job. “We hope that in the future maybe (the number of) eye care nurses in the eye program will grow and the quality of service will improve. We need good quality service, and we also need more eye care nurses because at the moment only one in the district is not enough.”

Micheal Knipe, Director and Deputy Chairman of the Optometrist Association Australia; National Committee Member of Optometry Giving Sight in Australia and volunteer Project Manager of the East Timor Eye Program said, “we are very grateful to Alito and the other eye care nurses that we work with in East Timor. Their commitment to helping give sight to their neighbors has been instrumental in the progress that has been made in developing sustainable vision care for a country so devastated by civil war and unrest.”

Micheal has visited East Timor five times since 2003 and in the beginning most of his time, and that of his fellow volunteers, was spent examining patients. More recently however, while still providing basic eye care, the volunteers are extensively involved in supporting the establishment of an East Timorese eye care system staffed and run by local people, such as Alito.

Donations from eye care professionals and their colleagues in the industry have transformed the lives of thousands of people in East Timor – and in many other countries. Thank you to all our donors for their continued financial support of Optometry Giving Sight.

Optometry Giving Sight is excited to launch its new Web site! The site contains more stories and photos of the people your donations help. We also have a dedicated section showing you how you can get involved and help raise funds, through your practice, company, university or as an individual. The address remains the same, so it’s easy to find! Please visit www.givingsight.org and find out more!