A Volunteer's Experience
Realizing the Dream: A Team Experience
The idea of personally visiting and working at The St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital dates to 1979, when our friend Dr. Geoff Bisley, OBE, was Warden there. A pioneer in eye care in West Africa, he was the project adviser to the International Eye Foundation’s Kenya Rural Blindness Prevention Project when I met him while I was working as a provincial ophthalmologist for Rift Valley Province. The Foundation’s wonderful working relationship with Dr. Bisley inspired me to think about volunteering at the Hospital. He talked in reverent terms about his service there, its patients, and the professionals and staff dedicated to eye care in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel.
My idea became a dream and the dream, a reality in April, 2010, when my wife Martha and I arrived in Jerusalem to volunteer, work, teach, and accompany the Hospital’s outreach services. Because of the complex political environment, services are often delayed in the Occupied Territories, yet many patients require urgent care to sustain and preserve sight. In Jerusalem, they are able to access modern eye care at the Hospital, but those in rural outlying areas of the West Bank and Gaza with emergencies and vision-threatening diagnoses are at greater risk.
The St. John Hospital Group includes two new, modern rural hospitals in Anatba and in Hebron. Local facilities are utilized for rural outreach in community centers such as the Fawar Refugee Camp and Halhoul community. Working side by side with the staff at these centers was a personally satisfying experience. We shared our common humanity and caring with all peoples and all faiths of Israel and the Occupied Territories regardless of patients’ ability to pay.
Three decades after meeting Dr. Bisley, it was a journey of the spirit finally fulfilled. We express our deep appreciation to the Hospital administration and staff, particularly Medical Director Dr. Jeanne Garth, Ms. Maureen Meo, and CEO Rod Bull for the opportunity to serve and for their generous gift of time and warm hospitality.
Larry Schwab, MD, OStJ
Dr. Schwab with a patient at the Fawar Refugee Camp.
To read about the experiences of other volunteers go here