Richard Tatwin has been the local coordinator for the Eye Care Project since late 2001. Initially his role was simply to provide the local knowledge that enabled the visiting Medical Teams to get to and work in the various parts of the country we needed to. He accompanied the teams to act as interpreter and liaison person as he had no knowledge of eye care at all at that stage.
When we met him he was the national youth coordinator for the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu and the idea was that he could take on the Eye Care coordinator-ship as an additional duty that would only run for the weeks teams were in Vanuatu.
However he is a very quick learner and soon picked up the basic skills of refractive testing of sight and as the demand was huge he began to run regular clinics where he prescribed second hand glasses.
Richard was (and still is) a leading sportsman in his country. In 2002 he was suffering from a major knee injury he had gained while playing soccer. At this stage he had represented his country in both soccer and cricket, but his sporting future was looking very doubtful and the level of his injury was at the point of seriously limiting his ability to walk. As a result we brought him to Melbourne and through the generosity of Epworth Hospital and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Richard de-Steiger he under went major surgery that restored his leg to the point where he was able to continue to play cricket for his country
and has done so up until the present time.
This sporting involvement has taken him to many parts of the world and earlier this year the ICC brought him to Melbourne for training as a cricket coach. While he was in Melbourne recuperating from his leg surgery in 2002 he was able to spend time at the College of Optometry at Melbourne University. Here he extended his skill level and learnt how to make glasses. Each year
the teams of optometrists who have come to Vanuatu have worked on extending his skills and now while not qualified by Australian standards he is able to do most things an optometrist does and to do them very well.
At the clinic and edging laboratory that we have now set up in Port Vila he and his two assistants test eyes, prescribe and make glasses. To keep costs as low as they can they use second hand spectacle frames and where ever possible they use second hand lenses.