Fiona Buckmaster

BSC (Hons) Optometry

Optometrist and Community Volunteer

Fiona Buckmaster 680

Tell us in more detail what your role entails, what challenges you currently face, and how you are finding ways to cope.

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Optometry in 2016, and whilst I work in community optometric practice most of the time, I recently returned to GCU, supervising the undergraduate optometry students on a part-time basis at the GCU Vision Centre. It really saddens me that I can't continue this work at GCU at the moment due to the current COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face learning, and I have so much respect for all the GCU staff who are working so hard to bring an online learning experience to their students during these difficult times.  

Although I have been working less recently due to the current restrictions, I have been keeping busy with a number of different ventures! I have been working with Vision Aid Overseas, an organisation that I volunteered with in Zambia last year, helping them to redevelop their training materials which will then be used for future eyecare skills courses in various countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. Closer to home, I have been volunteering my time making deliveries of food and essential items to elderly & vulnerable people in my local community with The Food Train, and I recently answered a call to allied health professionals and put myself forward to be redeployed within the NHS to boost capacity within the COVID-19 assessment centres if required (thankfully our fantastic NHS has managed to stay within its capacity so far though).  

On top of all of this, my lockdown life has become pretty hectic the past couple of weeks as I started making reusable cloth face masks! A few days before the Scottish Government announced their recommendations to wear face coverings in public spaces, I posted on my social media that I was going to make reusable cloth face masks out of some African wax print fabric I had bought on a previous trip to Ghana, and the response I got was amazing! As I'm not charging anything for the masks, I instead set up a fundraising page for charity which people could choose to donate to in lieu of payment, and in the past two weeks alone I have made almost 80 face masks and raised over £500 (and climbing!) for Oxfam's Coronavirus Emergency Response Appeal, helping to protect the world's most vulnerable people from being pushed into poverty by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Do you have a top tip for coping at a time of crisis? Or a few words of advice or support for fellow students and alumni on the front line?

I think it's important to have something positive to channel your energy into during a time of crisis like this. It might be that you're working on the healthcare frontline, trying to provide your patients with the best care possible in difficult circumstances. It could be volunteering with a local community group, or it could be something as simple as checking in with your friends and making sure they're coping okay, but try and do something that makes the world a little kinder and a little less scary. Small actions can make big changes, and will help us all get through this crisis together.