The flying eye hospital
There are many types of charity supported
by Masons internationally, nationally and
locally, but one of the most unusual is ORBIS,
which has its own DC-10 aircraft used as a
Flying Eye Hospital for the past 22 years.
It is because it is so unique that Old
Emanuel Lodge No. 5399 decided to give it
financial support and to try and publicise the
outstanding work carried out by this charity.
This remarkable aircraft carries out
operation on the plane as it travels the world
seeking to restore sight to the blind, and
going to poor countries where there may
be only one ophthalmologist for every two
According to the World Health
Organisation, it is estimated that around
37 million people are blind, but that three
out of four need not be given existing skills
Since being set up in 1982, ORBIS, whose
programmes focus on childhood blindness
prevention and treatment, have treated
more than 25,000 patients as well as training
ORBIS was one of the first blindness prevention
charities working in developing
countries to make childhood blindness
prevention and treatment a priority.
ORBIS offers a practical solution to this
overwhelming need of childhood blindness.
Leading surgeons from around the world
volunteer their time on ORBIS training
programmes in developing countries.
These volunteer surgeons work with
local doctors, transferring appropriate
sight-saving skills and expertise on board
the unique Flying Eye Hospital and incountry
programmes. Since 1982, ORBIS
has trained more then 63,000 medical
professionals, who have gone on to train
their colleagues who have in turn restored
sight to 17.5 million people.
The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, a
converted DC-10-10ER, has circled the
globe more than 10 times and has conducted
222 training programmes in 67 countries.
The Flying Eye Hospital contains a
complete ophthalmic operating suite,
including a four-bed pre-operation and
recovery room, sub-sterile room and laser
room, maintaining all the standards of
a regular operating suite despite being
situated on an aeroplane.
Pamela Williams-Jones, ORBIS UK
executive director, says: “Although the
WHO report presents some good news that
blindness levels are decreasing, there are
still 28 million people in the world who are
blind simply because they do not have access
to proper eye care facilities, medicine and
She adds that ORBIS, through its work
as an international non-government
development organisation, has completed
over 500 training programmes in 76
countries and has established training
programme offices in Bangladesh, China,
Ethiopia, India and Vietnam.
Some 70,000 local medical professionals
have undergone ORBIS training, but the
task is enormous despite technological
breakthroughs, with one person a minute
The needs of the charity are ongoing,
given its considerable training programme
and the vast number of eye operations
required. More information can be found
about ORBIS on www.ukorbis.org for those
wishing to donate.
Web site created by Mark Griffin