Saving Starfish, Saving Souls, or Team Starfish for short, was founded by Dr Loon Seng-Chee, Clinical Director, Head of Glaucoma Service, Department of Ophthalmology at NUH. Dr Loon began doing medical missions during his fellow year in 2006. Feeling that there was peace and meaning in doing work to help others, he formed a team of like-minded medical staff from various hospitals around Singapore, as well as friends, to help save lives.
The self-funded group was named after a famous story about a boy who was picking up stranded starfish on a beach and throwing them back into the water. In the story, while the boy cannot save the thousands of starfish that were washed out on the beach, it mattered to the starfishes he saved. Similarly, with any mission work to save lives, eyes and their souls, one single operation may seem to be a drop in the ocean of people who need such surgery, but to that single individual, we have brought back sight.
Since their formation, Team Starfish has collaborated with other doctors and organisations such as the Fred Hollows Foundation, to surgery in Nepal, Cambodia, and also with the Singapore Airlines and Bangladeshi doctors to do surgery in rural Bangladesh. Currently, the team is working with the Secretary of State of Cambodia to help the Khmer Sight Foundation by performing eye surgery in Cambodia for the needy. In addition, they are also conducting teaching and surgery with the Lifeline organization to teach eye surgery in rural areas of China.
To date, the team has operated in ten provinces in China, sometimes at high altitudes of 4000m, Bangladesh, Nepal (also at high altitudes, requiring the team to transport their gear up the mountains and walking up to the campsite and sleeping in cold conditions), Cambodia, Indonesia as well as East Malaysia.
As a self-funded group, the project faces many challenges, with the main two being funding and logistics. In addition, as they travel to rural and poor places, finding partners to work with that can help with the local government, as well as recruiting patients and finding a place to perform operations, can be difficult. Other challenging but interesting obstacles include 'exotic' toilets (or the lack of proper facilities), language issues with the locals and occasionally, local bureaucracy. Despite the challenges, Team Starfish still enjoy very fruitful experiences.
How you can make a difference
Team Starfish is always preparing for their next mission trip to help restore sight for the needy in the region. Your generous donation will go a long way to support the team's effort to make a difference to the lives of these individuals, one eye at a time.
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