Helping International Communities See Better with Singapore Polytechnic



The YMCA of Singapore (YMCA) and Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has helped to improve vision for some 20,000 less privileged people in Southeast Asia over the past 10 years and that is not about to stop. From 15 to 27 September this year, YMCA will bring a team of SP Diploma in Optometry students to Dalat, Vietnam to conduct eye screenings and distribute glasses to the less privileged.

This year, the team, comprising of 22 students, two SP lecturers and one staff from YMCA, will primarily serve communities living in rural areas of Dalat, where people are largely involved in farming and manual labour. Students and adults from less privileged backgrounds will be chosen by local authorities for eye screenings. Those with severe eye conditions will be further assessed and recommended follow-up procedures. This year, the eyewear are provided by the Essilor Vision Foundation.

This is part of an annual YMCA of Singapore International Service Programme since 2010, organised to serve international communities and improve accessibility to eyecare in less privileged countries. The YMCA and SP Diploma in Optometry students have provided aid to people in Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in previous years, providing screening to up to 2,500 people each time.


“Through this meaningful programme, our students are able to see how their skills and knowledge can be applied to make a positive impact on the local community. By being exposed to a different culture and environment, our students will have the opportunity to expand their worldview and become purposeful global citizens,” said Lim Hui Shan, Lecturer and Manager of Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Optometry, who will be leading the Dalat, Vietnam eye screening project 2019.

While many Singaporeans visit optometrists when facing poor eyesight, thousands in rural communities live with few to no options when their sight deteriorates. Many do not even realise that the problems they have with seeing can be alleviated and improved upon.

In previous years, people of all ages have benefited from the efforts of the YMCA and SP. They have enhanced children’s abilities to see in school and job safety for labourers and drivers as their sight was greatly improved by appropriate visual aids. Elderly were given reading glasses and those with eye conditions were diagnosed and advised to seek further treatment and to take up preventive measures.

Chloe Tan, an executive from the YMCA of Singapore’s International Service Programmes who will be leading the trip said, “Being able to see is something a lot of us take for granted. By improving accessibility to eyecare which they may otherwise not have gotten, it can tremendously improve their quality of life.”.

“For some of our clients, being able to see their surroundings clearly is something they did not think was possible. Seeing their faces beam with joy when they first put on their glasses really makes all the effort for the trip worthwhile!” said Andrew Leo, Assistant General Manager of Programmes, YMCA of Singapore.


The YMCA of Singapore’s International Service Programmes organises a wide range of service trips in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, to strengthen less privileged communities in other countries. Their recent projects include building an Aquaponics farm for a school in the Philippines and helping to expand Janajagriti Basic School in Nepal.


Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang.