We are proud to announce the healthy return of Dr James Merrington to J.C. Merringtons Optometry, after he was doing volunteer work in Malawi, Africa.
Dr Merrington was volunteering during his six week stay in Africa, working with the Brian Holden Vision Insitute to mentor the first ever Optometry graduates in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. Malawi has been plagued by low incomes and poor governance for many decades, which has meant that their Health and Education services have dramatically suffered. With the help of the Brian Holden Vision Institute, who have been establishing similar programs in other third world countries, Malawian eyes should see a dramatic improvement over the coming years.
‘The program over there is going to make such a big difference to the Malawian community’, said Dr James Merrington, ‘Sadly, with me over there, it brought the total number of Optometrists up to only 8. That’s 8 optometrists for 16 million people, meaning only one Optometrist per every 2 million people. Those numbers are frightening when you compare them to the one Optometrist for every 5,000 people in Australia’.
Dr Merrington explained that the biggest problem after the Optometrists shortage was the inability for day to day consumables to be purchased. ‘Quite a few high quality machines had been donated, but it was so unfortunate that they were unable to be used due to the high cost of batteries, and light globes etc that needed replacing over there. I think this first ever wave of Optometrists could really make a difference to the Malawian people, just so long as the facilities that have been donated are able to be kept in adequate shape’. J.C. Merringtons are currently trying to work with other groups to figure a way for us to be able to improve these small yet important issues.
This isn’t the first time James has volunteered in Africa. Before he started work with the old Merringtons optometrists, James worked on the Medical train and the Red Cross flying doctors in South Africa for a number of weeks, an experience he explained was as equally challenging as it was enlightening. ‘You forget how lucky we are here. There were people over there that had never seen a doctor before, people who had to walk 30 or 40kms to meet a train full of doctors, dentists, optometrists to fix the simplest of problems that they’ve had to cope with most of their lives. Here, the removal of cataracts is a simple procedure, often done well before the cataracts interfere in day to day living. There, it’s a life changing event for people who may never have seen their children or grandchildren’.
Included in those who walked for miles for such a simple procedure was an 86 year old man, who told James that he was the first doctor who had ever checked him. ‘He simply needed a cataract removed. So simple, yet so life changing’.
We would like to thank the Brian Holden Vision Institute for the amazing work that they have done, as well as the chance for James to have been a part of it. All of us here at James’s new company of J.C. Merringtons Optometrists hope to be able to lend further help to projects in the future.