Japan tsunami relief update: 27th March 2011

(2011-03-27) Iwate Prefecture (Kamaishi City and the town of Ohtsuchicho):
1) Ohtsuchicho
The medical infrastructure in the town of Ohtsuchicho was totally devastated due to the torrential tsunami. The clinics and hospitals in the coastal area were all washed away and their doctors and nurses were displaced as well. Hence, they are engaged in relief activities while they themselves are evacuated at the evacuation shelters.
The medical activities in Ohtsuchicho were headed by the staff of the local Ohtsuchi Hospital which also helped AMDA in procuring medical supplies. However, as the hospital had to undergo the suspension of their services until Apr. 15th (for the first time since the tsunami hit; allowing its employees to take some time off to take care of their personal matters), the evacuation shelters under its direction have been facing difficulties in their daily operations.
At Ohtsuchicho High School, due to the lack of coordination, things have been rather confounding as many relief organizations come and go in a short period of time. As of Mar. 24th, teams from AMDA as well as Osaka and Aomori’s medical associations have been active (all comprising a number of staff.) It is also reported that having a pharmacist in the team is very important in providing coherent services as most of the medicines are generic ones.
Majority of patients at Ohtsuchi High School are those with chronic diseases. Therefore, they all requested the medicines they regularly take.
One of AMDA doctors accompanied a local volunteer to deliver mobile clinic services to a remote community in mountainous area where assistance hadn’t reached. In the community where there were about fifty households (most of them elderly) the patients with chronic diseases had been left untreated. Among the patients were diabetes patients with abnormally high blood sugar level or those with excessive high blood pressure. In response to this, the team delivered mobile clinic services on a regular basis.
Contrary to Kamaishi city, the disaster headquarters in Ohtsuchicho has been very much isolated as lines of communication have not yet recovered. The road access to the headquarters is not easy either where the roads are covered by debris.
AMDA team members assume that it is going to take a lot of time to have the medical infrastructure recovered, thus the assistance from external relief organizations is a must. It is also foreseeable that services such as nursing for the elderly would be resumed in the course of recovery.
2) Kamaishi City
Medical volunteers are regularly allocated at the disaster headquarters in Kamaishi City. People are counting on AMDA as its doctors themselves are always present at the daily meeting. Large amount of medicine donated from all around the country has exceeded the capacity of the initial storage so that the stock management has been handful.
Miyagi Pref. (the town of Minamisanriku-cho):
1) Minamisanriku-cho
AMDA has been visiting several evacuation shelters in Minamisanriku-cho on a regular basis, conducting mobile clinic services and on-site needs assessments.
At one iron factory where about thirty people have been evacuated, AMDA prescribed Tamiflu to the evacuees as there were several suspected influenza cases.
According to the surveys conducted in collaboration with other medical teams, following facts were found:
1)There are lots of people who cannot come and collect medicines from the evacuation centers .
2)Depressive symptoms have been increasing among the evacuees.
3)Suspected influenza cases (Tamiflu was prescribed for its prevention.)
4)Along with mobile clinic services delivered by doctors, health care workers are also conducting home-visiting on their own. In order to avoid the overlap, the close communication/referral between the two parties is a must.
A pharmacist from AMDA team sorted out the medicines donated from its donor. The stock management of medicines is considered very important when aid supplies are coming in one after the other.
Shizukawa Elementary School:
Here, it is a local doctor who leads the medical relief, and there are about 50 to 80 patients to the temporary clinic daily. The prescription of medicine is for a maximum of seven days per patient; the doctors decided not to prescribe medicines for a long period if a patient can be cured within a few days. There are also several teams of psychiatrists dropping by in the area.
No gas, water or electricity in the shelter except for the nightly operation of a power generator that helps the evacuees to recharge their mobile phones. LED lights have been provided so the place is not totally darkened out. There are futons but no heating available. On Mar. 24th, the evacuees were able to take a shower for the first time after the disaster struck (40 people at a time every 30mins.)
Shizukawa Junior High School:
Likewise, it is another local doctor that is in charge of the medical relief in the shelter. AMDA helped to deliver mobile clinic services to the vicinity and saw many patients with hey fever and high blood pressure. There were several severe cases such as inguinal hernia and hydrocephalia as well.

Japan tsunami team update: 7th AMDA team now underway..

(2011-03-18) 1) AMDA team in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture:
AMDA team has been delivering mobile clinic services and relief goods to the nursing homes and schools (evacuation shelters) in Aoba and Miyagino Wards. The common cold has become prevalent among the evacuees, however, the prevention is not easy in the crowded evacuation shelters while the dust from the collapsed buildings covering the entire area.
2)Kamaishi City and the Town of Ohzuchicho, Iwate Prefecture:
Likewise, mobile clinic services have been the main activities of the AMDA team in Iwate Prefecure. The cold weather (snowing) is affecting the evacuees’ health condition and medicine is lacking in the area.
On Mar. 17th, AMDA’s sixth team left for Miyagi/Iwate with medicine and food supplies.
On Mar. 18th, followed by Mar. 19th, AMDA will be sending its seventh team (1 coordinator) and eighth team (1 doctor, 2 nurses, 4 coordinators) respectively to the aforementioned Kamaishi City and the town of Ohzuchicho in Iwate Prefecture.

Helping Christchurch

Rose Charities New Zealand partly runs out of Christchurch. Within the 200 casualties, everyone knows someone who has been killed or injured though all Rose personnel fortunately escaped. The main historic center of the city is devastated. Johnny Veal (Rose NZ Optometrist) says it ‘is like a war zone, but perhaps worse as the shocks continue’.
A lot of aid and resources have been mobilized including international rescue teams. However there are needs which are not met. One such, has been identified by John himself. Many people have lost everything including their glasses. Without them they cannot function, drive, work etc. Most of the optometry clinics have been destroyed. John has stared a small emergency one in a suburb and is being overwhelmed with requests. As there has been so much loss many people now are without financial resources. Rose Charities New Zealand with support from Canada is assisting John in this initiative.

If you would like to donate, please go to the donate section of this website.  There is a field for a message ie ‘for Christchurch relief’ after the donation is made.   <DONATE NOW>

Paediatric Cataract Initiative Awards

Innovative Programs in Nepal, India and Nigeria Receive Funding

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Pediatric Cataract Initiative has announced its inaugural small research grant recipients for treating and preventing vision loss in children.

The Initiative, a partnership of the Bausch + Lomb Early Vision Institute and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), will provide two research grants of US$50,000 each to:
Lumbini Eye Institute to study the cost and clinical effectiveness of a comprehensive pediatric cataract surgery follow-up system in western Nepal and adjacent northern Indian states. The outcomes are expected to have a wide-ranging effect on follow-up regimens in developing nations worldwide.
Calabar Teaching Hospital to investigate the burden and causes of severe visual impairment and blindness among children in the Cross River State of Nigeria. This is believed to be the first large-scale study of the root causes of childhood blindness in Africa.

Launched in June 2010, the Pediatric Cataract Initiative is the first dedicated global effort aimed at preventing and treating cataract – a clouding of the eye’s natural lens – in children so as to reduce childhood blindness. Causes of pediatric cataract can include intrauterine infections such as pregnancy rubella, metabolic disorders and genetically transmitted syndromes.

“While the knowledge and techniques for diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cataract are well known, there is a lack in the understanding of factors that determine success of interventions and factors that will enhance accessing services,” said Dr. Gullapalli Rao, chairman of the Pediatric Cataract Initiative Global Advisory Council and founder of the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India.

The inaugural small research grant application was open to clinicians and researchers around the world. Members of the Pediatric Cataract Initiative Global Advisory Council, which is composed of eye health experts from around the world, met in December 2010 to review 16 small research grant applications from countries including India, Cameroon, Nigeria, Nepal, Guatemala, Kenya, the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

“In children, despite the best cataract surgery, long term and more frequent follow up is required because of changing refractive error due to their constantly growing eyes and the special concern of amblyopia, which is exclusive to children,” notes Dr. Salma K.C. Rai, principal investigator, academic director and ophthalmic assistant training in-charge and consultant pediatric ophthalmologist at Lumbini Eye Institute, Nepal.

“It is very important for the pediatric ophthalmologist and the team to repeatedly stress to parents the importance of follow up visits, at least in the initial few years following pediatric cataract surgery. The seed needs to be sown at the right time, and any delay will result in poor results,” said Dr. Rai.

“Receiving the grant will engage people in our region to take more action towards eliminating childhood blindness,” said Dr. Roseline Duke of the Calabar Teaching Hospital in Nigeria. “At the end of our research, I hope to have restored good vision to children who are affected by cataract, and integrated those who have lost their vision into their schools and communities.”

An estimated 1.4 million children are blind worldwide, 1 million of whom live in Asia and 300,000 in Africa. The prevalence of pediatric cataract in developing countries can be 10 times more common than in developed nations.
Childhood blindness affects not only children, but their families and communities for life. One study places the global economic loss over 10 years of childhood cataract at between US$1 billion to US$6 billion.

The Initiative also intends to announce a major prevention and treatment grant for a Chinese institution in the coming months.

“Lions have long been dedicated to saving and restoring sight, so this partnership is a natural for us. Dedicated research that will help prevent blindness is a new area of great interest for our Foundation, and one that will pay great dividends for years to come,” said Wing Kun Tam, a member of the Global Advisory Council and vice president, Lions Clubs International.

The Pediatric Cataract Initiative (www.PediatricCataract.org) utilizes the resources of both Bausch + Lomb’s Early Vision Institute and LCIF to identify, fund and promote innovative methods of overcoming this challenge for the long-term benefit of children, their families and their communities

Dr David Sabiston teaches at Rose Cambodia Sight Center

Dr David Sabiston (NZ Order of Merit) is one of the stars in the history of the Rose Charities Sight Center. Over the past 7 years David has generously donated his teaching experience, his extensive international experience and personal resources to bringing the Sight Center to one of the foremost blindness prevention and sight restoration establishments in Cambodia. He has elicited donations in materials and funds. The center has treated some 90,000 patients since 2002 and much of this incredible number was able to be achieved through Davids work.

A message from Trish Gribben, chair, Rose Charities NZ

Greetings for New Year 2011 Everyone!

It is going to be a most exciting year with great projects on the Rose NZ calendar.

I have hardly come back to earth since paragliding in late November with the heavenly Himalayas stretching their pure white peaks against the blue blue sky.  To be more exact, my flight took off from Senekot, a village above Pokhara, and it was the Annapurna range with the sacred mountain, Machupachare, backgrounding my view……and what made me feel even more airborne that day was quite astonishing news I had just received about Rose NZ’s latest project.

The backstory goes like this: In 2008 Rose NZ brought ophthalmologist Dr Basant Sharma, a director of the Lumbini Eye Institute, to New Zealand for three weeks professional development. He stayed with us in our home and charmed everyone who met him.

Naturally, when I went to Nepal recently in a group of 15 people with Footprints, I asked if a visit to Lumbini could be on the itinerary to visit Basant. John McKinnon who, with his wife Diane, leads Footprints tours, is a retired ophthalmologist so he too was keen to visit the Institute. (The McKinnons were the first doctor and teacher in Sir Ed Hillary’s first Sherpa hospital in the Kumbu and this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of that pivotal time in their lives.)

Lumbini is in the southern Terai, or the plains area of Nepal near the border with India, and it is also a World Heritage site as the birthplace of Buddha. There was a double reason for going there.

Our time at the Lumbini Eye Institute(LEI), hosted by Basant, made a big impact on us all as we took in the extraordinary “production line” of the outpatient clinics overflowing with people patiently waiting to be registered, assessed for surgery or glasses, then being treated. The flow embraces 800 patients a day, with a dozen ophthalmologists doing 200 cataract operations every day, in three operating theatres, each with four operating tables.  In the area where glasses are dispensed, people were thronging as deeply as those on an Indian railway station about to catch a train. Not surprising when you learn that the catchment population for the LEI is 20 million poor people, many of them coming from India. The Nepali government contributes not a rupee to the work.

Still reeling from the intensity of visiting the LEI, we set off on the dusty pot-holed road to Kapilavastu where, about an hour’s bus ride away, a rural outpost eye clinic operates from an unfinished two-storey building, able to give only rudimentary diagnosis and treatment of basic eye problems.

The road to Kapilavastu winds back more than 2500 years. It was there that Prince Siddhartha lived a royal existence in palaces that are currently being revealed by archeologists. It was from Kapilavastu that he set off, aged 29, in search of the meaning of life, suffering and enlightenment. But it was not the Buddha’s story that captivated us most that day.

We were welcomed at the local eye clinic with kata, the white scarves of greetings, and leis of marigolds by the village District Health Committee, and were shown around the unfinished building. We were told how funding sources had dried up and of plans that money could make come true. We heard how the clinic, which would draw on a similar catchment of 20 million poor people, could offer cataract surgery, how the LEI as the parent body could send more eye surgeons if equipment was permanently there, how the distressing rate of eye problems in young and old could be reduced. We heard how the clinic could become self-sustaining within a short time of its establishment.

The amounts needed for the project are estimated at $US10,000 for the completion of the building and $US20,000 for the equipment needed, including a generator to cope with the major power outages that are standard — about 18 hours a day WITHOUT power.

As Basant translated, we all listened carefully and asked questions. As chairperson of Rose NZ I spoke briefly, saying I would take their story in my heart and mind back to our trustees in NZ, but it was impossible for me to give any promises on the spot. I left with the faces of the district committee, so trusting and hopeful, carved on my mind. Every member of our group was moved and impressed.

Now, Fast Forward to nearly a week later when we were walking on a ridge at Senekot where the morning sun was burning off the mists over Pokhara. My friend Basant tells me that a glimpse of the Himalayas is enough to purify the soul; that day, with the full glory of the mighty Annapurna peaks rising before us, our souls must have been squeaky clean.

As I walked along the mountain tracks, starting to contemplate paragliding, my fellow travellers fell quietly into step beside me. By the time I took to the skies the clinic at Kapilavastu had been promised $NZ10,000 by my generous companions.

The Rose NZ Nepal project for 2011 was taking off!  Is it any wonder I was nearly over the moon?

Within a week of my homecoming, Rose NZ trustees formally and unanimously approved the Nepal rural eye clinic project. We will help make it happen, alongside our on-going commitment to the Rose Eye Clinic In Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There are exciting developments in Cambodia  too —- but that’s another story: See News from Phnom Penh (pip/will: can it be a link to click on?)

Watch this space for fundraising news as 2011 ticks along.


Anyone wishing to donate to the Kapilavastu Rural Eye Clinic should send a cheque made out to Rose Charities New Zealand

c/- Rose Treasurer Jane Midgley

Midgleys and Partners

P.O. Box 3714

Christchurch, 8015

Dr Basant Sharma (right) pictured with Raju Aryal, a member of the Kapilavastu clinic management committee. In the background is the archeological site with remains of the palace where the Buddha grew up.

(Picture of man speaking)..Rajesh Gyewali, the assistant secretary of the village health committee, speaks to the Footprints group at the Kapilavastu primary eye care centre

2010 NZ AGM Highlights

The 2010 Rose Charities NZ was held on 2 October at Pip and Bill’s place on Waiheke Island. The following notes are a summary of the the main points emerging from the meeting.

  • We have a new trustee, nominated by Mike Webber, Heather Richardson. Heather is a specialist theatre nurse  who has worked a lot with Mike at Wanganui Hospital. (The microscope that went to Cambodia in March this year was her “baby”  for 10 years.)  She is also a Rotarian. She lives in Marton.  She has had experience conducting nursing training for ophthalmology in Fiji.  We are lucky to have her join our team.
  • We are applying for accreditation with MFAT / NZ AID for NZ contestable NGO funds.
  • CAMBODIA: Planning for the year ahead:  A very valuable ($100,00 new) Phaco machine has been donated to Rose for the Cambodian clinic from St Georges Southern Cross Hospital in Christchurch. It will be packed and crated by Agility Logistics, as happened with the microscope sent in March this year, and will be sent up to Phnom Penh early next year.  It is proposed to ask Dr Basant Sharma of Nepal, who uses exactly the same instrument at the Lumbini Eye Institute, to go to PP to oversee the installation and training of staff.  Rose will need to pay for this. Trustee John Veale may also be going up to Cambodia with the machine.
  • Note: since the AGM another machine has been donated to use from Wanganui.  Mike is very excited about this, as it can be used for field work and early detection of problems  that lead to blindness.  It too will be packed and shipped up and of course Rose will be paying for this.
  • Mike Webber and John Veale are discussing a future laser machine for the PP clinic, which Rose would have to purchase.
  • Future plans for possible projects in Cambodia would involve outreach work, to reach people in the country. Possibly a new clinic might be established; a van for outreach work, to get doctors and nurses to eye camps, might be considered (about $US 10,000 would have to be raised.)
  • NEPAL:  Trish Gribben is  going to visit Basant Sharma at the Lumbini Eye Institute around November 22, and will report back after that. Basant, who came to New Zealand  for three weeks two years ago, says that outreach work has been on hold while the political situation is very unstable.  He will be taking Trish to a village where an outreach clinic could be a good possibility.  The group I am travelling with is being led by Dr John McKinnon, a retired ophthalmologist who was the first doctor in Ed Hillary’s first hospital in Nepal, 45 years ago.
  • PACIFIC:  Mike Webber reported that eye care in the Pacific is well covered by the Fred Hollows Foundation, so it is not a priority for Rose.
  • Rose sent a grief and trauma counsellor to Samoa after the tsunami, Liese Groot-Alberts. Her work was so well received that she was asked to return six times this year, and OXFAM have supported her to do that. However, a need for PALLIATIVE care in Samoa has been identified and Liese has been asked to conduct training workshops for doctors and nurses to get this started. Rose is very keen to help her do that. We understand that there is a huge burden placed on families when a terminally ill patient is sent to NZ for treatment and dies here. The emotional and financial cost to families can be life changing.
  • In New Zealand we have confirmed donations to two new refugee support groups in Auckland and Christchurch, to help with family reunification; a women’s group within the Tamil community in Auckland; and the Champion Centre which gives early intervention for children with multiple disabilities.

Inspiration in Cambodia !

When Trish Gribben and Jane Midgley (Rose Charities NZ chairperson and treasurer) were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the June meeting of Rose people from around the world, they visited Rose Australia’s rehabilitation project, run by physiotherapist Joanna (will, surname please). She was busy supervising the construction of a space attached to a hospital for post-operative physio—a concept almost entirely unheard of in Cambodia. The big room-to-be had no roof, lots of rubble and bamboo. NOW LOOK AT IT ON JOANNA’S BLOG:
We also met Chan Chea, a young woman who had not moved from her wooden cot since an illness struck her five years before. Thanks to Joanna’s physio programme over the last four months, Chan Chea could WALK to receive a certificate at the opening of the brightly-painted centre.
Trish Gribben says: “This is one of the best and most moving things I have EVER seen!”

The Light in Their Eyes

Trish Gribben visits an eye clinic in Cambodia with ties to New Zealand where sight has been restored for thousands of patients.

It is Monday morning at the Rose Eye Clinic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The first of maybe 100 patients for the day have arrived and are sitting patiently lined up on long stools, in the shade of a few straggly mango trees. Incense wisps up from a little temple nearby. None of the patients has an appointment. Many a mother, with a few possessions tied in a cloth bundle on her back, is brought to the clinic by a young child, perhaps a 10-year-old son, holding a bamboo stick between them to lead the way because mother is blind. They may have spent two days to get to the Rose clinic, walking or taking a bus.

After assessment and cataract surgery that very same day, mother’s sight miraculously restored, the pair set off side by side. When they return to their village the seeing-eye son can return to school for the first time since his mother’s sight faded completely two years before. This is a typical story from Cambodia. It also involves three Good Kiwi Blokes (GKBs); hands that have restored sight to thousands of blind eyes; a looting; a mix of microscopes, money and mates.

The three GKBs are all mates: John Veal, optometrist from Christchurch, Dr David Sabiston, ophthalmologist from Hawkes Bay and Mike Webber, OMNZ, optometrist from Whanganui. Together, over the last eight years, these GKBs, as trustees of Rose Charities NZ, have worked with a local Cambodian doctor and nurses to set up an eye clinic in Phnom Penh for the very poorest people. The three GKBs, between them, have made 14 trips to Cambodia since 2002. Every time they go they have taken up microscopes and equipment generously donated by the optometry community in New Zealand.

“The donating of good quality second hand instruments from eye surgeons and wholesalers in New Zealand has been way beyond expectations,” says Mike Webber. “I get a real buzz from being at the eye clinic in Phnom Penh. So little effort and money by our standards goes such a long way, for such a lot of people. They have absolutely nothing. We can improve their lives without interfering with local customs or communities. Why not just do it?”

In Cambodia there are 16 ophthalmologists for 14 million people. Eye problems are so commonly left unchecked that people go blind when a simple procedure could have saved their sight. (In the Auckland phone book there are 16 ophthalmologists within less than a kilometre on the medical strip along Remuera Road.)

The medical director of the Phnom Penh eye clinic is Dr Hang Vra, a Cambodian who trained as a doctor in Moscow. On holiday in the Ukraine as a student he met his wife, Natalie, who is now the senior nurse at the clinic.

Dr Vra

Dr Vra, who is completing post-graduate ophthalmology training paid for through Rose Charities NZ, has what David Sabiston calls “some of the most beautiful surgical hands I have seen in my career.” In the last eight years Dr Vra and his team have seen more than 88,500 patients at the clinic; nearly 18,000 have received surgery and the others have been fitted with glasses. Last year nearly 2500 people had surgery.

In March this year Mike Webber was as excited as a boy with a new i-Gadget when he went to set up the most sophisticated microscope donated to the clinic so far — a $65,000 Moller-Wedel operating microscope cast-off from the Whanganui Health Board. Thanks to Agility Logistics’ benign freight bill and two of Webber’s mates in Wanganui paying the airfares for him and a technician, Neville Wood, to travel to Phnom Penh to assemble the instrument, the cost to Rose Charity was only $350. There are plenty of GKBs out there.

Within a day of the new microscope arriving Dr Vra had mastered the auto-adjustable instrument. He is beaming about his job becoming easier and more precise. But this story is not just about expertise and equipment. It is about lives given light in a country that has endured the horrors of the dark era of the Khmer Rouge when hardly a doctor was left alive
after the purges of all educated people in the 1970s and ‘80s.

I visited the Rose clinic in Phnom Penh recently, as chairperson of Rose Charities NZ. To see the transformation when a life is changed in the instant when bandages are removed after a cataract operation is magical.

On my first visit, there was one old lady sitting stoically behind her dark glasses; not a smile, not a muscle moved. Her daughter, dressed in her best street wear, Miss Kitty yellow and white pyjamas, did her best to fan her mother in the heat. Next day this old lady (probably years younger than me) sat like a stone while her bandages were taken off. Suddenly, she grabbed my hand and hugged and hugged it. Her smile was as wide as it could be. For the first time in a decade she could see. Her world looked bright.

The clinic has a turbulent story, typical of many in Cambodia. S**t has definitely hit the fan. In 2002 the entire Rose clinic was looted — chairs, operating table, microscopes, clock, stock and barrels of patient records. But Cambodians have had to cope with far greater horrors than that, of course, and in the Buddhist spirit of acceptance and resilience, Dr Vra and Nurse Natalie, simply kept going. They acted like heroes, comforting the patients as they kept turning up. Rose New Zealand followed their lead and renewed efforts to get equipment and professional support for Dr Vra as often as possible. That eye clinic is now regarded as doing the best eye surgery in Cambodia. It is not in any way “competing” with a Fred Hollows clinic—the two Fred Hollows clinics in  Cambodia are deep in the countryside.

The clinic is still so basic that Dr Vra’s current ‘wishlist’ reads like

  1. materials for a cupboard for brooms, buckets and mops so the blind patients don’t trip over them.
  2. a swing door into an operating room so that sterile hands do not have to wrestle with the door handle.
  3. a sterilising room moved closer to the surgery room, to reduce the risk of infections, always a crucial factor with eye operations.
  4. a second-hand washing/drying machine, to help out in the rainy season.
  5. a mended ceiling in the recovery “ward” where patients rest immediately after surgery on woven mats on iron beds, patiently attended by a wife, husband, daughter, son.

Food is brought to them from the stalls lining the dusty street nearby. A towel or cotton scarf is used as a fan. No bathroom exits; a cool sponge-down in the sticky heat is not an option. No bathroom is on the wish-list—such luxury is unthinkable.

Dame Silvia Cartwright, New Zealand’s former Governor General who is currently in Phnom Penh as a member of the international war crimes tribunal there, is a patron of Rose Charities NZ. She has visited the eye clinic and been greatly impressed at what the Kiwi-Cambodian co-operative effort has achieved.

“I know that all around the world the same help is being given to people in need,” said Dame Silvia, “but I know Cambodia best and this country has so much to offer. Its people are clever, welcoming and generous. Equally, it lacks some of the most fundamental health care of any country in the world. The Cambodian people deserve our support in improving their skills and knowledge. It is a privilege to see highly skilled New Zealanders such as Mike Webber come regularly to work with local specialist ophthalmologists so Cambodian people can have the best care possible.”

Rose Charities is an network of “helping hands” that operates out of 9 countries — Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, UK, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia.
It has current projects from Madagascar, where it runs a school, to Nepal, where women volunteer health workers are being trained to identify and prevent eye problems, to Sri Lanka where children orphaned in the 2004 tsunami are being given on-going help.

Rose likes to keep things simple. Kindness is its raison d’etre. It was founded by a doctor, William Grut, whose mother, Rothes Grut (nee Neville) was a New Zealander. Will was born in Malaysia, educated partly in Christchurch and now lives in Vancouver. There is an umbrella Rose International Council but there are no grand plans for super-sizing up. At an international gathering in Phnom Penh for Rose recently, the treasurer’s report was brief: “Zero dollars IN. Zero dollars OUT. The council has no money, no budget.” Individual Rose groups raise money for the projects they support by a variety of means ranging from cooking lessons to fashion shows or theatre nights. Volunteers provide all the support, with practically no money being spent on administration.

As well as its on-going commitment to the Cambodian eye clinic, Rose Charities NZ has plans for medical-aid projects in Nepal and the Pacific. It has helped a trauma and grief counsellor, Liese Groot, to work with medical professionals in the Philippines, Malaysia and Samoa and is giving support within the refugee community here.

–In the set-up days of the fledgling Rose Eye Clinic in Phnom Penh, a weight was needed to apply post-operative pressure to patients’ eyes. Nothing, no instrument, was on hand. One of the doctors looked around the make-shift structure (as it was then). On the floor were some old bolts. Quickly he picked them up, wrapped bandages around them and rested them on the patient’s eyes. Job done.

Now a beautifully-balanced weight is used at the clinic. It was designed by Dr Basant Sharma, an ophthalmologist from Nepal, who is currently vice-chairman of Rose International and who has worked alongside the Cambodian medical team in Phnom Penh to offer his expertise. Rose NZ brought Dr Sharma to New Zealand two years ago for his own professional development.

— There was a time when Dr Will Grut was in the Cambodian countryside for an eye camp with Dr Vra. Patients were lined up for surgery in a thatched hut. Down came a deluge of rain, dripping through a hole in the roof. “That will be the end of surgery today,” thought Dr Grut. “But no. Someone took a syringe, siphoned some petrol out of a nearby vehicle, injected it in to a polyfoam material and we all watched while it foamed up. It was used to patch the hole in the roof – and the surgery went on.”

A Monday morning line-up of patients at the Rose clinic.
“Some of the most beautiful surgical hands I have seen in my career,” says Dr David Sabiston of Hawkes Bay about Dr Vra.
A son waits for his mother’s magical transformation.
Dr Vra masks up
and scrubs up….
to use the new operating microscope donated via Rose Charities by the Whanganui Health Board.
Every patient’s name is recorded. More than 88,500 patients have been seen at the clinic in the last eight years.

Sustainable and Local. No frills no admin costs…