We acknowledge you

SAI thanks our many volunteers who give generously of their time and skills so that the project can thrive. Your contribution is as necessary as the clinical and surgical experts at the front line. We appreciate you giving your time generously to assist with fundraising, with collecting, cataloguing and dispatching equipment. We thank you, accountancy experts, who validate spreadsheets and proposals for potential donors. We appreciate and thank you all.


The Myanmar Eye Care Project was inititiated in 2002 when a Myanmar refugee family, who had settled in Sydney, had inherited the sum of $5000. They asked Geoff to develop an eye care facility at the Village Monastery Hospital of their Chief Abbot, Sayadaw U Lakkhana in Wachet, a small village one hour from Mandalay. The service rapidly burgeoned into a busy clinic and teaching centre supported by the MECP.

Daw Si Si Win launched the project, which depended heavily on the clinical and diplomatic skills of her son, Dr Sai Htun Naing Win. He bridges cultural divides, determining solutions to myriad problems. In addition, the family pours energy and funding into the success of the venture. To this day, the projects in Myanmar depend on the skills of Dr Sai Win and his sister, Dr Nang Si Si Win – and many extended family members in Myanmar.

Dr Sai Win, together with Dr Geoff Cohn and Coordinator Phyu Sinn Mon, visit Sayadaw U Lakkhana

Dr Sai Win, Professor Gerard Sutton, Professor Yee Yee Aung, Myanmar Minister for Health Professor Pe Thet Kin and Geoff

The real strength of the projects created by See Again International…. is the amazing personnel on the ground who labour uncomplainingly and with inspiration to realise our shared dream of sight restoration. Well ahead of any considerations of knowledge or competence comes the sense of caring, a deep desire to foster the interests of one’s community which has at last been realised. These are the heroes.

See Again International recognises that a far more efficient and affordable working pattern must be possible when the traditional mould of practice is failing to deliver results. Ophthalmic Technicians can attain a higher level of expertise, enabling available surgeons to work with optimal throughput within the constraints of a limited budget.

They can manage and organise systems, register patients, take an appropriate history and examine, refract, explain the nature of the problem, the treatment, the impending surgery and its expectations, prepare eyes for operation, sterilise instruments, scrub to assist the surgeon, ensure the maintenance of an optimal clean environment and manage post-operative care. And teach these varied skills to new cohorts of workers, even new generations.

That’s they do all this with the love and spirit which engenders confidence in the community inspires their patients.

And us, their teachers.

Learning headache management in lecture

OpTech teaches new OpTech to refract

Teaching continues in the busy clinics

Dr John Sarks and Dr Shirley Sarks, ophthalmologists

Drs John and Shirley Sarks have been the soul of generosity to Geoff Cohn and hundreds of others. John quietly donated equipment and disposables, which Geoff desperately needed to restore eyesight and teach skills in Bophuthatswana. In addition, John and Shirley continue to facilitate the teaching programmes which Geoff develops in impoverished countries.

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Dr Kwon Kang, ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon

An initial exploration of Myanmar during his training in 2003 inspired Kwon to fill a significant gap in eye care capacity of the country. A population of 60 million had one (highly competent!) vitreoretinal surgeon. Drawing in the energy and commitment of many skilled colleagues, notably Dimitri Yellalich of Perth, Kwon developed fully equipped high-technology vitreoretinal services at Wachet and Mandalay Eye and Ear Hospital.

Kwon proved able to mobilise skills and support from most continents. He and his colleagues have greatly empowered the eye surgeons of Upper Myanmar and, through them, the vast community which they serve.

Kwon and Geoff unloading equipment

Kwon and Geoff unloading equipment

Sayadaw U Pyin Nyar Thami, Chief Abbot at Mount Popa Myanmar, acknowledges Kwon

Dr Richard Rawson

Richard has worked intensively throughout his career in outback Australia to provide eye services where needed. His annual team visit to the island nation of Tuvalu has delivered sight and eye health to deprived people. He is a major figure in the Australian Paralympics Health Movement. Richard has contributed extensively to the development of eye care programs in South East Asia, including the Myanmar Eye Care Project. He is seen here with Sayadaw U Lakkhana, whose enthusiasm inaugurated the very effective Australian initiative.

Richard, Sayadaw U Lakkhana and Geoff

Professor Gerard Sutton

Gerard first taught with Geoff Cohn in Cambodia in 1998, again in 1999, when HelpAge International was trying to address the Cambodian Emergency, a legacy of the Khmer Rouge.

In 2004, Myanmar had one trained corneal surgeon and a nonfunctional eye bank system. Gerard responded to Geoff’s request to assess the Myanmar burden of corneal blindness with characteristic dynamism: There are now eight fully trained corneal transplant surgeons, and the eye bank is very effective. It had increased supply by over 300% in the five years before the 2001 military coup d’état brought the system to an abrupt halt. Now no-one in Myanmar can access this vision-restoring surgery.  Gerard pleads: “Our medical colleagues in Myanmar and their community need our help…….”

Gerard teaching corneal transplantation at Wachet Jivitadana Sangha Hospital               

Dr Keith Zabell, Queensland ophthalmologist

For many years, Keith has taken a highly skilled team to work and teach at Wachet. Keith has also managed to cheaply source an astonishing quantity of normally costly, invaluable equipment, including operating microscopes and ophthalmic lasers. These prove profoundly valuable for Myanmar and Cambodia charity eye care hospitals.

Dr Keith Zabell

Dr Eric Chai, ophthalmologist

Eric has taken his frequent and thoughtful contributions to eye care for the needy in Myanmar to a crucial next level: He has brought his clinical and surgical expertise, together with insightful managerial skill and research background, to bear on the alarming silent epidemic of angle-closure glaucoma. Consequently, his Myanmar academic colleagues have taken significant action because of his emphasis on the need for early screening to prevent severe glaucoma and blindness over time!

Eric Chai consulting

Eric with Geoff and the core team enjoying an evening meal at the village of Myinmu near Tizaung in Myanmar

The American Contingent: Ophthalmologists Dr Ron Rose, Dr Paul Krawitz and Dr Nelson Gurney

These superb eye surgeons responded to a plea in a US national publication for help and made their way repeatedly to assist with surgery and teaching. Dr Rose also spent a month with Geoff in Bali, teaching nuances of eye surgery within the system of Yayasan Kemanusiaan Indonesia.

International contributions have been many and well-received.

Paul, Nelson, Geoff and Ron with OpTech Kyaw Kyaw

Dr Richard Wingate, ophthalmologist

Richard dedicated himself to teaching and the well-being of the broader community of Myanmar. His visits to Wachet to evaluate retinal disease were valuable, and the patients and staff adored him.

A polymath with compelling humour that raised the spirits of all constantly, he has gone to his next incarnation and is much missed.

The Wachet birthday hat – all doctors enjoy downtime!

Sister Barbara Roberts

From 2003, Barbara has travelled with Geoff and the team to Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Myanmar many times. She proved the most loving and effective teacher of nursing skills. A testament to Barbara’s effectiveness is that her students taught many further generations of students with no loss of the critically important high standards of nursing. ‘Mummy Barbara’ is adored by her many former students

Barbara heading across Siem Reap

Nurse Joanne Barton, Sayadaw Nayaka’s brother, Richard Wingate, Min Hlaing, (seated) Sayadaw U Nayaka, Barbara Roberts

Phyu Sinn Mon

The projects of MECP have sailed against the wind for much of the past nineteen years, needing inspired leadership. In 2004 a shy young lady of barely nineteen joined the Ophthalmic Technician training and proved a consummate problem-solver. Her capacity to develop a dynamic, complex system from a starting point of only goodwill has been recognised by powerful chief abbots. Under her stewardship and working with Geoff and Sayadaw U Wunthe Pala Linkara since 2013, a bus stop at Tizaung transformed into a major eye centre. They created for the impoverished Arid Zone a huge service which provides free surgery to over one hundred patients per day and consultations for up to five hundred.

Without this gently powerful lady, MECP could not have reduced the blindness burden of Myanmar by over a quarter million. With her, MECP forges ahead. In 2021, despite global and local adversities, she masterminded a new centre in the Golden Triangle

Phyu Sin examining an eye in a Cambodian village

Nurse Joanne Barton, Sayadaw Nayaka’s brother, Richard Wingate, Min Hlaing, (seated) Sayadaw U Nayaka, Barbara Roberts

David Gilray, pharmacist and gentleman, Sydney

David is always available to manage situations on the home front, including telephone calls, negotiations, transporting valuable donated equipment and general assistance as required.

David, always willing

Toby and Judy Hammerman, social workers

Toby and Judy have been a bedrock of support for Geoff and SAI in all its endeavours over many decades. Every request for ideas, transporting equipment and soliciting donations has been answered, and moral support has been ever-present when challenges have seemed insurmountable.

Toby and Judy Hammerman

David Stani – logistics

David shared the passion for eye care by raising funding to support Battambang Ophthalmic Care’s initiative to screen and treat the poorest of Cambodia’s people, the floating village communities on the Tonle Sap. In addition, he is always willing to assist with the seemingly menial tasks essential to the functioning of SAI.

Geoff and David collecting donated equipment

Dede Callichy

A teacher, musician, author, webpage designer, Dede has travelled widely teaching English in foreign cultures. She has pioneered two small independent schools in Australia. She teaches Natural Vision Improvement, was a Shiatsu practitioner and leads Dances of Universal Peace. Her great inspiration is supporting Geoff Cohn’s great eyesight restoration mission.

At Wachet, Dede teaches enthusiastic OpTechs basic eye terms in English

The calling to improve the world was always an ideal. So, here in 1966, fifteen-year-old Geoff and Dede entertain at Meerhof Home for children with disabilities. Thank you, Geoff, for manifesting your ideal and inspiring and healing so many along the way.

Image; Peter Geldenhuys.

Geoff’s sons

Matthew Cohn

Graphics expert, whose creative teaching material raises substantial funding for SAI

Daniel Cohn

Writer, frequent team support member and inspiration

Sunil, Geoff and Daniel with the team at Sriramnagar after screening a few thousand eyes for treatable conditions – and finding many!

Daniel delivered and assembled a donated specular microscope to the charity project of Dr Sunil Thangaraj, left, in Sriramnagar, rural Andhra Pradesh. This elevated the centre to the official status of an Eye Bank.

SAI acknowledges many, many other generous people

Despite lofty ideals, little of the work inherent in sight restoration and teaching is glamorous. The background labour which ultimately allows clinicians and surgeons to achieve the goals of an entire team is 99% of the project. Those who have helped and continue to facilitate the achievements of See Again International are many and no less dedicated.

Those who raise funds to support the projects, who fetch carry and store equipment and disposables, who maintain the necessary communications, who teach English within the projects of SAI so that the medical teams and patients may be confident of a common language and that the students may access the literature. Included are those at Vision Beyond Aus (VBA)who give SAI access to a necessary formal structure. Finally, are those who contribute time and effort to ensure that container loads of extremely valuable equipment are shipped to countries that need them, who recognise that being an unsung factotum on the ground supporting clinical teams smooths their visits to preserve and restore eyesight.

Needs are constantly pressing. The list of astonishingly generous souls who help SAI at all levels with no expectation of recognition is long. We who see the extraordinary impact of vision restoration are privileged to experience these many moments. Most who contribute do not but continue to maintain their selfless support.

Without such solid background assistance, SAI could achieve nothing. Because of it, we have achieved much.

Our deepest gratitude to everyone concerned.

Geoff’s Honours and Acknowledgements

Over the years, Geoff Cohn has accrued many honours for his dedication to restoring eyesight. They include a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2010. His Myanmar Eye Care Project was shortlisted in The Power of One Australian Hero’s Award, hosted by Penguin Books and the Bryce Courtenay Foundation, Geoff’s Myanmar Eye Care Project. Geoff is a Paul Harris Fellow, and Rotary has acknowledged his contribution by granting him Life membership. Additionally, in 2021, the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology has recognised Geoff’s achievements with the Outstanding Service in Prevention of Blindness Award 2021.

Media acknowledgements

SCHMIDT Lucinda, 2010. Profile of Dr Geoff Cohn



2017 RANZCO Conference Perth



Causes of Blindness in Rural Myanmar 2009

Wikipedia The Myanmar Eye Care Project 2019

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