Australia is an awesome place filled with extra-ordinary people. I was fortunate to be selected to help a OneSight team screen and test the eyes of 500+ kids in Mount Isa and Cloncurry, in outback Queensland. There are many services that are in short supply in remote locations, including eye care and the supply of glasses. In addition to this many do not have the resources to buy them anyway. OneSight fills in with eyecare programs where governments and private enterprise are not able to.
Mount Isa is a mining town in far West Queensland. Big enough country town with one of the mines just a few blocks from the centre of town. The flight from Brisbane is about two hours (1500 kms) which is not quite long enough to watch an inflight movie, so all we got was crappy TV re-runs. Flying over what was mostly flat landscape with the occasional set of ridged rounded hills, the land still tinged with green and dams still full from wet season rains. Australia is a very old and weathered continent.
The earth is red in this part of the country. Very dusty when dry and very muddy when wet. It gives an almost Mars like appearance in some places. I am amazed that Burke and Wills made it this far in this sort of unforgiving country side. Hot, dry, dusty and rocky is how I would describe it.
For a different view, I would suggest doing a mine tour. Quite fascinating and a little bit scary, descending in a rough rattly old cage deep beneath the surface. Our guide (a real miner) with very typical Queensland accent (Ay), was interesting and personable. At times even very funny. He answered all our questions, but, the best question from our group was when Allison asked, “So what did you do wrong to have to do tour groups?” The look on his face was just precious! He did however give a very plausible answer, and I believed him, honest!
The two schools we attended were just awesome. The Principals, teachers were very welcoming, but I have to say the kids
were just amazing. Very polite, well behaved (well mostly), and bright and interested in what we were doing, including not quite understanding that we had come to do all of this free! I was truly taken aback when one young girl said to me after an initial greeting, “I am pleased to meet you”. Whoa! I can not remember the last time a city kid said that to me.
On our (5:30am) drive to Cloncurry we had a bit of excitement being stopped by the Queensland cops for a license check and a bretho. Seemed quite odd in the middle of nowhere so early in the morning. Trucks and cars all pulled up for inspections. The cops were really nice though, giving us only a warning for one of our “slightly over packed cars”.
Driving in the Aussie outback, especially at dawn and dusk, you have to be ready to deal with kangaroos, emus, and other animals that can do real damage to your car. We actually did not see even one kangaroo on the journey, but we did nearly run into a camel though! There are more than a hundred and fifty thousand wild camels in Australia, so I guess seeing one should not be that unusual. The Aussie outback is such a perfect environment for them.
The two things that stick in my mind about this trip was when we enabled a child to see clearly, probably for the first time, and, being able to find, just the right trendy frame to suit a (bit) nervous teenager. They were all very excited.
There was a fair variety of cultural backgrounds, but this did not really matter. Every child had two eyes and we tested each of them in turn. Funny how an eye is much the same everywhere irrespective of the persons skin colour or cultural background, just like kids, the same the world over. They were all just wonderful.
OneSight is a global organisation of which Australians are a part of, supporting eye care and the supply of spectacles to those who have limited access to these services which we take for granted. The most common form of vision impairment in the world today, is simply a lack of vision correction. Ie “spectacles”. Such a simple thing that many do not have access to.
OneSight needs thousands of pairs of spectacles donated each year to support the demand globally. Since 1991 OneSight has helped 3.5 million people with their vision needs.
So, trip done. On the plane back home, even though we were pretty tired, I feel a bit disappointed it is over. We were fairly busy for the two days so it went pretty fast.
Would I volunteer again? Absolutely.
It is quite a satisfying thing working with a team of people all helping others see.