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ACS Egham student joined a nine-day journalism internship with eye care charity, Orbis UK, in Vietnam


An ACS Egham student has been selected to take part in a journalism internship with Orbis UK, an international eye care charity that prevents and treats avoidable blindness across the world.

Mariachiara Lombardi, 17, was one of five ACS International Schools students who joined the trip from 22 - 30 June, where she interviewed patients and medical staff and took photos which will be used by Orbis to showcase the work the non-profit organisation does in Vietnam.

400,000 adults and 23,000 children in Vietnam are blind, and whilst blindness in the country has decreased over the last decade, it is a continuous struggle to provide eye care, especially in rural areas.

Quality of care, training and human resources remain problematic, and ACS students were particularly focused on raising awareness of these issues through various media platforms.

Starting in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, to meet and learn from Orbis staff, the students then flew to Can Tho, a town in south Vietnam, to visit a number of the charity’s partner hospitals in the country. These included the Can Tho Eye Hospital and the Can Tho Children’s Hospital.

As part of their internship itinerary, students were given a tour of Can Tho Hospital’s purpose-designed Child Friendly Eye Centre where they built on their interview skills with healthcare professionals, ophthalmologists and support staff. During these personal interviews, the interns deepened their understanding of the hospital’s day-to-day procedures and challenges – and gathered valuable research materials for future media submissions.

“Through the work that the hospital does with Orbis’s support, families are able to see a quick – sometimes overnight – change”, Dr Binh, Opthalmologist and Vice Director at Can Tho Eye Hospital told ACS students in one interview.

Students also visited Can Tho Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to understand how Orbis is helping to protect the sight of premature babies, as well as being in the privileged position of being welcomed into patients’ homes, to find out how their sight saving treatments had impacted their lives.

Mariachiara commented ahead of the trip: “I have always wanted to be part of something bigger than my local community and to help globally, and this trip is going to help me achieve that.”

The internship, now in its nineteenth year, is sponsored by ACS International Schools. Students were selected for places through a rigorous application process including written statements, videos, and an interview with a panel of seven representatives, including ACS International Schools and Orbis UK.

Kathryn Sweet, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Orbis UK, commented: “Thanks to ACS International Schools and their generous donation to Orbis UK, we are able to not only treat those struggling with avoidable blindness, but to also inspire the next generation of medical professionals and journalists.

“Five outstanding candidates were selected for their ability to connect with our work and capture engaging stories, photos and videos to help us educate others about our vital work. The students truly threw themselves into the task at hand.

“Orbis is extremely grateful for its continued partnership with ACS. Their generosity now exceeds £500,000, and their students continue to enthuse countless others to join Orbis in the fight against avoidable blindness.”

Published: July 17 2019

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