The @FredHollows Foundation does incredible work in Laos and around the world to reduce avoidable blindness. Funded by Australia, they provide high quality eye care to people in disadvantaged communities and restore sight to thousands of people across the Lao PDR every year.
For the International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities, meet #AustraliaAlumni Souphonesa Xaypannha, who is bringing her skills to reduce vision impairment as the Laos Country Manager for the Fred Hollows Foundation.
Souphonesa grew up in the south of Laos and completed high school in Vientiane. She completed a Masters of Human Resource Management at Curtin University in Australia in 2003, supported by an #AustraliaAwards scholarship.
Learning at a world-class Australian University have Souphonesa the skills and confidence to take on several management positions, but it is her experience working with the Fred Hollows Foundation that has given her a real passion for helping other people.
In Laos, the main cause of blindness and visual impairment is untreated cataracts, which is treatable and avoidable. Regular screening and a simple operation can reverse blindness and restore sight for many people. “We have restored sight to thousands of people”, explained Souphonesa. “We help train and empower local eye doctors, nurses and health workers to create a sustainable system of care in the communities that need it most. We make sure everyone has access. It does not matter whether they are rich or poor. Women, men, girls, boys and people with disability all have access to high quality and affordable eye healthcare.”
Souphonesa also explained that in Laos women suffer more with cataracts and other eye diseases. However, the rate of eye health access is unequal. “We know that we haven’t done enough to improve equity and inclusion, so in everything we do and each step of our project work, we try to enhance engagement of women, development partners and ethnic organisations to influence policy design to maximize equal eye health access.”
Souphonesa is proud of her achievements and passionate about making a difference to people who suffer with vision impairment. “I love what I am doing. We can restore sight to people and resolve vision impartment quickly. We can make a difference in so many people’s lives. With good vision, people have more opportunities to exercise their full potential and to shape a better life for themselves and their communities. They also increase their capability to contribute to social and economic development.”