Charitable ophthalmic work

Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that at least a 150 million people are blind from cataracts with a further 50 million severely visually impaired.

In the developed world, cataract surgery is performed as soon as there is an impact on patients’ quality of life but in the developing world, there are very few ophthalmic surgeons who are able to carry out the necessary surgery. It is amazing that a procedure that can be performed in less than 20 minutes is all that is required to reverse blindness and change peoples’ lives.

Charity work abroad

Mr Mearza has a strong interest in charitable ophthalmic work and has been on numerous trips abroad helping some of the world’s most needy people see again.

His interest in charitable work began in 2001 with a visit to India. This was followed by subsequent trips to Bali, Burma, Madagascar, Bangladesh and Ghana restoring sight to patients afflicted with cataracts.

Although some of the places visited and the environments are challenging, this is offset by the huge rewards and gratitude that come with giving people their eyesight back.

Orbis The Flying Eye Hospital

The latest Flying Eye Hospital was launched in June 2016. Donated by Fed-Ex, designed by experts in aviation and medicine and brought to life by generous supporters, this amazing plane is bringing the world together to fight blindness. We were fortunate enough to get access to see it for ourselves with a VIP tour of the plane at Stanstead airport.

Eye Charity Stories

Raipur, India Feb 2001

This was my first trip abroad and seems like a long time ago now!

I went with friend and colleague Mr Jin Chan to the Chhattisgarh Eye Hospital in Raipur, deep in the Madya Pradesh district of India.

This trip was more about learning the techniques required to manage the complex and advanced cataracts that one is presented with in the developing World. It is very difficult to get this kind of training in the UK as the cataracts we manage are nowhere near as advanced.

We learnt by observing one of the best cataract surgeons in the area, Dr Vijay Mehra who guided us into becoming accomplished cataract surgeons able to deal with all manner of cataracts.

Interestingly, there was no access to gloves and we had to use alcohol spirit for sterilisation purposes hence the bare hands in the picture!

Sadly, Dr Mehra is no longer with us but I’ll never forget his wise words, kindness, hospitality and generosity. This trip gave me a firm grounding for future charity work and gave me the confidence to work in difficult environments often with sub-standard instrumentation.

Bali, Indonesia, Oct-Nov 2002

In October 2002, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the island of Bali to teach local surgeons techniques in cataract surgery, specifically how to use ultrasound technology to remove a cataract.

The trip was almost cancelled due to the Bali bombings 2 weeks prior but I decided to go ahead in any case and I’m glad I did.

The hospitality was second to none, the island was beautiful and I shared my expertise with the local surgeons which was greatly appreciated.

Whilst I was there, I was asked to see an elephant with an eye problem. As the elephant was in an elephant park sanctuary high up in the hills, I was flown up in a helicopter and given a tour of the island en route.

The elephant turned out to have a cataract and subsequently went on to have successful cataract surgery- definitely a highlight of the trip!

Burma, April 2004 and Jan 2005

Both trips to Burma, now formally known as Myanmar were unique experiences. Burma spends the least amount on healthcare compared to all other nations which explains the huge problem they have with cataract induced blindness and other medical conditions.

As well as performing surgery, we managed to see some of the local sights including the ancient city of Bagan.

The whole experience was amazing and as always on these trips, it was great to mingle with the local populace and experience their hospitality and culture. One of the highlights of the trip was participating in a football game organised by the locals not to mention the food which was always very good!

Ali’s role in supporting Orbis and other Eye Charities

Ali has been a volunteer surgeon for over 15 years travelling to various countries including Bali, Madagascar, Ghana, India and Bangladesh to teach and train local surgeons as well as treat patients that would otherwise be blind from their eye condition – something that seems inconceivable in today’s world. Ali has registered his interest to work with Orbis both as a volunteer surgeon as well as an ongoing collaboration with Vision Correction London.

Currently he is preparing for a trip in November 2017 when he will travel to Cambodia via a government charity to treat patients who are blinded by cataracts as well as to share his skills and knowledge to local surgeons.