Mr Robert Walters, Chairman of Orbis in the Middle East

Mr Robert Walters, consultant ophthalmologist, has dedicated almost 30 years to Orbis and fighting avoidable blindness across the globe.

Since the early nineties, Rob has dedicated countless hours to our cause, first as a volunteer, then as a trustee and also as Chairman of different arms of the organisation, including Orbis UK, Orbis International and Orbis Africa. He is now Chairman of Orbis in the Middle East.

Over the years, he has been instrumental in both programme delivery and governance of the organisation, donating his time and skills to training ophthalmologists in low and middle income countries, chairing board meetings and lobbying other organisations to support our work.

In 1994, Rob travelled to Sudan for his very first Orbis volunteer assignment, where he spent three weeks working with local eye care teams. This led to visits to China, Ethiopia, Nepal, Vietnam, to name a few, where he shared his experience and supported fellow doctors and nurses to be able to help more people within their communities.

In 2003, his journey with us continued as he became a trustee, which enabled him to not only use his knowledge to teach, but to also influence Orbis's programmes. His experience on the ground gave him a keen insight into the challenges faced by those he worked with and in 2008 he was appointed chairman of Orbis UK, a position he held until 2015.

With Rob's support our charity grew, receiving £2.9 million in donations in 2010, to £4.7 million in 2015. The number of long terms programmes we were able to fund also grew, from Ethiopia, to Zambia, Cameroon and Ghana.

His dedication has not only been instrumental in the organisation's ability to treat million of people each year, but has also been crucial in creating and nurturing new relationships within the sector and beyond.

Mr Walters has been a vital participant in our awareness raising activities in Qatar, championing topics such as child eye health and support for refugees, which has led to an $8 million grant from the Qatar Fund for Development and support from Qatar Charity. In addition, he has worked with us to host Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex on numerous occasions, helping us to draw much needed attention to the issue of avoidable blindness.

In 2014, Mr Walters was honoured with the title of Trustee of the Year at the Charity Staff and Volunteer Awards, for his dedication to improving eye health globally. In 2017, he was nominated and shortlisted for the Outstanding Individual Bond Award.

Rob tells us about his first trip with Orbis:

"Khartoum in Sudan was my first programme as a volunteer surgeon working on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. We visited a vast refugee camp in Omdurman, to support those in need of eye care. There we met a young woman in her twenties, who was accompanied by a little boy who was guiding her. She was blind due to dense cataracts and we invited her to come to the plane for treatment.

“I operated the next day and will never forget the look of joy and happy wonder on her face when the patch was removed the day after surgery. Her vision was restored, and this would impact so many areas of her life. For me this extraordinary experience had a huge impact on my life too and I have been working, ever since, to restore sight and prevent blindness around the world.

“Last year, with the help of The Qatar Fund for Development and our many partners, Orbis UK delivered almost 10 million treatments across the globe. This is an achievement I am very proud of."

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