An optical assistant from Glasgow is climbing aboard for the journey of a lifetime today (Friday 13 May) after Vision Express sponsored her to join a South African locomotive volunteering mission.
Samantha Davidson works part-time at the Vision Express Buchanan Galleries store and is in her third year studying optometry at Glasgow Caledonian University.
The Train of Hope initiative will see Samantha and a small selection of her peers jet off to Johannesburg to join volunteers from across the world on-board the custom-built Phelophepa Health Care Train.
The two week trip will involve 20-year-old Samantha living on the train and seeing people from impoverished communities in need of vision care. Starting off in Johannesburg, the train stops off at different locations across rural parts of South Africa including Vryburg and Delareyville.
Samantha said: “I chose to pursue a career in optometry with the aim to help people and make a difference and I’ve done a lot of volunteer work and fundraising in the past.
“The Train of Hope offers a great way to combine my passion and learning and I know it will be a once in a lifetime experience.”
The train has been operating for almost 20 years with a team of full-time professionals and volunteers delivering health services to remote areas of the country, supporting communities who don’t have access to healthcare services.
What initially started out as only eye clinic coaches in 1994, today offers an impressive fully-fitted train to provide more comprehensive primary healthcare, dental, ophthalmic and psychological services as well as education and outreach programmes.
After finding out about the Train of Hope through university lecturers, Samantha and three other third year optometry students from her course, seized the opportunity to extend their clinical skills and help others in need of urgent care.
Samantha said: “The train arrives at each destination to a set schedule so people know when it’s coming – many can walk a long way in the hope to be seen.
"It’s a first-come first-served service and the eye clinic team sees 150 patients daily at each location so quite often people arrive really early and wait a long time to be tested but we’ll be providing a same-day service for optical prescriptions.
"I don’t quite know what to expect but I know there will be a lot of challenges. Obviously there will be the language barrier but on top of this, many of the people we see will be illiterate so I’ll be adopting diverse ways of performing sight tests, which will be very interesting.”
As well as supporting Samantha’s trip financially, Vision Express helped her to learn and experiment with the different methods of testing that she and the other volunteers will employ during the mission.
Samantha added: “At Vision Express I work with state-of-the-art technology. A major challenge I’ll face will be seeing patients in an outside environment and with limited equipment.
“I’m really grateful to Vision Express for its support - the team in Buchanan Galleries has helped me to learn and practice the alternative techniques I’ll be using, rather than the modern equipment that I am used to.
“I think the Train of Hope experience will really boost my learning. Putting my professional skills into practice in this kind of challenging environment will definitely help me a lot when I start my pre-registration training with Vision Express next year. I can’t wait.”
Samantha will be blogging about her Train of Hope experiences – to find out more on her journey, visit www.blog.visionexpress.com.
Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To book an eye test visit the Vision Express store at Unit 10-11 Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow, call 0141 333 9212 or visit https://www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/
About Vision Express
Vision Express is the third largest optical retailer in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating across 43 countries, spanning over 5,800 stores and online.
With more than 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.
Vision Express is considered one of the leading and most trusted opticians in the UK and Ireland, with its European offering supported through sister eye care brands Grand Optical, Solaris and Generale D'Optique.
With around 4,000 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:
- Alzheimer’s Research UK
- Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
- International Glaucoma Association
- Macular Society
- Stroke Association
- Temple Street University Hospital.