Ophthalmologist Volunteer - Andrea Ang

For quite some time I wanted to do some work in a developing country and perform cataract surgery on some people who would otherwise be blind due to disease. I have some colleagues who went with Equal Health to India and they found it worthwhile and rewarding. As Equal Health is a small organisation based in Perth I thought I would be able to make a difference if I volunteered with them.

My arrival in India was a sensory feast ... crowded, noisy and vibrant, with interesting smells. The people I met were very friendly. I enjoyed staying in a village situation as this was all part of the experience.

The highlight of my trip to India was operating on people who couldn't normally afford the surgery. Twenty one cataract operations were conducted and all of the people benefitted enormously from their operation. Professionally, it was extremely rewarding to be able to help people really in need and change their lives. Being able to operate in a different country, in a different theatre, with different equipment was a challenge, but confidence building to be able to successfully perform operations in a different environment. Working in India is extremely different to working in Australia. In the Camp situation we didn't have all the equipment we usually use in Australia so you just 'make do'. In the hospital we had similar equipment to Australia, just older models. In the theatre they are very conscious of wastage and everything is reused otherwise the cost of surgery would be doubled. My time in India has made me more appreciative of the lifestyle and opportunities we have in Australia.

A personal highlight was celebrating my birthday in India with the team. I was surprised with a lovely birthday cake and my birthday coincided with a rest day so we enjoyed a meal at a restaurant and had a lot of fun together.

I definitely would like to do more volunteer work in the future. I really liked exploring a different country and culture by doing volunteer work.

To anyone considering volunteering, my advice is: "Go for it! It is an all round, great, different experience."

Andrea Ang - Ophthalmologist, Royal Perth Hospital