A common vision of helping the needy

A resident gets an eye screening from a staff member of the SNEC. Under the SPECtacular Experience, doctors, optometry students and staff from the SNEC and Gleneagles Hospital gave residents free eye screenings, eyewear, surgery and eye care educatio
A resident gets an eye screening from a staff member of the SNEC. Under the SPECtacular Experience, doctors, optometry students and staff from the SNEC and Gleneagles Hospital gave residents free eye screenings, eyewear, surgery and eye care education.PHOTO: PEOPLE'S ASSOCIATION

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said recently at a seminar that companies should work together when meeting social needs. He gave examples of best practices in corporate giving in Project We Care, an initiative started in 2012. In the initiative, the People's Association facilitates the pooling of companies' resources to meet different needs in the community. The Straits Times looks at two of those examples, each involving nearly 20 groups that help in different ways.

From eye screenings and eyewear, to surgery and education in eye care - these free services have benefited about 500 needy residents since March last year.

The end-to-end help is provided by a group of 18 organisations, including optical shops, lens manufacturers, volunteer eye surgeons and polytechnics offering optometry courses.

This is part of the SPECtacular Experience initiative, which started in Sembawang GRC and then extended to Tampines GRC. It is still ongoing in Sembawang and is expected to benefit 1,200 more residents there by the end of the year.

POOLING RESOURCES

Various stakeholders pooled together varied resources to provide an end-to-end complimentary eye care programme.

MS GERMAINE LYE, Asean coordinator of the Essilor Vision Foundation, on the collaboration with different groups.

In October, the initiative will be extended further to Tanjong Pagar GRC, where it aims to reach 240 residents by January.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong cited the initiative at a corporate giving seminar recently as an example of how companies can use their skills to help.

"Besides providing donations and volunteers, companies can also look more closely at the expertise and capabilities they already have, and think of creative ideas to use these skills to help," he said at the Project We Care seminar two months ago.

In SPECtacular Experience, optical shops helped by providing eyewear and eye screening services, while lens and equipment manufacturers contributed their eye screening equipment and lenses.

Gleneagles Hospital, the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), optometry students from Ngee Ann and Singapore polytechnics and doctors from non-profit group A New Vision were also involved.

The People's Association facilitated the initiative and identified residents in need of help.

Some eye screenings were decentralised and done at various optical shops; others were done on a larger scale at the polytechnics and community clubs.

Ms Germaine Lye, the Asean coordinator of the Essilor Vision Foundation, the philanthropic arm of lens-maker Essilor, said collaboration with different groups was vital.

She told The Straits Times: "Each partner is positioned to play a unique role that contributes to a more holistic solution... Various stakeholders pooled together varied resources to provide an end-to-end complimentary eye care programme."

Nanyang Optical director Bernard Yang, a grassroots leader, was one of the people who mooted the idea for SPECtacular Experience.

He said: "In my grassroots work, we always work with healthcare groups on general health screenings, but the focus was never on eye care or ocular health. There are people in rental blocks who had problems seeing."

He added: "I was very heartened that many of my retail competitors were open to coming together for a greater good to help Singaporeans. There are different eye problems, and hospitals and the SNEC can come in to help, especially when it comes to cataract problems which affect all elderly."

Cataracts cloud the eye's lens. Cataract surgery can easily cost $3,000 per eye in private hospitals, said Mr Yang.

Such surgery is commonly done by eye surgeons, said Dr Ronald Yeoh, a volunteer doctor from A New Vision. He performed a pro bono cataract surgery for Sembawang resident Jenny Kow, 77, last year.

Said Dr Yeoh: "There were no complications. It took about 15 minutes and it was all done."

The surgery has certainly improved the quality of life for Ms Kow. "It has given me clear vision and I can now move around at night without any difficulties," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'A common vision of helping the needy'. Print Edition | Subscribe