Vision Sciences students volunteer aboard South Africas train of hope

25 May 2016

Samantha Davidson is volunteering on the train of hope

Samantha Davidson is volunteering on the train of hope

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Vision Sciences students are travelling to South Africa to volunteer on Phelophepa, the custom-built ‘train of hope’ that delivers health care to remote areas of the country.

Optometry and Orthoptic students from the School of Health and Life Sciences have joined a team of full-time professionals on the train’s eye clinics. During the placements, the student volunteers are carrying out eye examinations and giving eye-care advice to children and adults. Students are travelling in teams of four or five to work aboard the trains of hope throughout the summer, bringing the total number of GCU students who have volunteered on Phelophepa to more than 90.

Professor Niall Strang, of the Department of Vision Sciences, said: “The School is delighted that once again our students have been offered a unique opportunity and the invaluable experience of working with communities as they care for up to 100 patients every day, supported by local translators and clinical staff.

“As the University for the Common Good, GCU is committed to supporting projects such as Phelophepa, which is transforming the health of communities.”

Third-year Optometry student Samantha Davidson has been supported by Vision Express, where she works part-time, to take up her volunteering placement, which takes her to Delareyville in the country’s North West Province.

Samantha said: “I chose to pursue a career in optometry as I want to help people and make a difference. The train of hope offers a great way to combine my passion and learning and I know it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t quite know what to expect but I know there will be lots of challenges. The experience will really boost my learning.”

As well as the eye clinic, the Phelophepa trains have a pharmacy and health, dental, psychology and educational clinics.