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Volunteer Story

Natalie Johnson – My Volunteer Experience

Photo: Natalie Johnson, Australian Youth Ambassador for Development

Natalie Johnson, Australian Youth Ambassador for Development

I began my work with CSF in November 2008 as a Research Officer and will be based in Dhaka for a period of twelve months. My role within CSF involves research and analysis of initiatives on childhood blindness and disability as directed by the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) and co-development of a research agenda for CSF policy and program development. To date I have collaborated with senior CSF researchers on parental knowledge, awareness and practices related to blindness in children, the outcome affording CSF to better target it’s programmes towards the community.

I have an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology from the University of Technology Sydney and a Master of International Public Health from the University of Sydney. I have an employment background in children with disabilities both in Australia and internationally in the Netherlands and Bulgaria and community based not-for profit organisations in Sydney.

CSF services involve detection of visually impaired children, referral of the cataract blind to surgeries and treatment, primary eye care, rehabilitation, inclusive education, and advocacy. CSF works through a public health approach and a unique community outreach process. It has links with eye hospitals, paediatric ophthalmologists, and disability-specific service providers and with relevant forums and associations.

In addition to assistance with CSF ongoing research aims, in partnership with local stakeholders, I will develop an international volunteer camp to be held at the CSF Sirajganj site where volunteers will work with the children and communities that CSF targets. This will provide the opportunity for CSF to considerably raise their local and international profile, and awareness of their significant and crucial programmes in childhood blindness and disability.

Although I have only recently begun my work at CSF, I have been welcomed by the CSF team and have had the occasion to visit both Naogaon and Sirajganj sites to witness CSF programmes in the field. I am extremely grateful to CSF for their hospitality on these trips, and feel privileged to have had the chance to meet with the children and families that CSF works with. All CSF staff are extremely passionate and committed to working with the blind children of Bangladesh.

CSF receives technical support from the ICEH and its donors including Muslim Aid UK and AusAID in the form of volunteers in the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program , of which I am a participant. With continued support, CSF will be able to increase and expand their programmes in a much needed field of public health in Bangladesh.

I am excited to have the opportunity to work with CSF, their stakeholders and become involved in the community and children CSF assists and supports in addition to learning from the team of dedicated staff at CSF.

Natalie Johnson
Research Officer
Child Sight Foundation