Meet Dr. Jacques Samson, Ophthalmologist and IRIS Mundial volunteer. He has taken part in nine IRIS Mundial missions as a surgeon, starting with Natitingou, Benin in 2004. Dr. Samson is a calm and well-organized person, always happy to help others by sharing his expertise, according to the volunteers on missions with him! Here’s what he told us when we asked if he was willing to share his experience with us, as a key volunteer who has had a positive impact on the development of IRIS Mundial:

– What motivated you to go on a mission to help the most underprivileged?

“The first thing that encourages us to go on a mission is the appreciation of everything that life gives and brings to us. Once you’ve realized that, I think it is natural to want to share all the abundance that life has to offer. My involvement in international cooperation began with a sister, Mrs. Evelyne Tremblay of the Charité de St-Louis, who came knocking at my door to help her buy Lasers and asked me to train ophthalmologists to use them in Haiti. As I have often said, when you take your first “assignment”, you “fall into the trap” because shortly after your return, you start thinking about the next one.”

– What did the missions mean to you?

“The first thing I have learned from the missions is to appreciate being born in a country where I had everything I needed. The second is respect for different people and different ways of thinking. Then, it’s the huge privilege of meeting the amazing people I was going on a mission with.

My role has changed over time. During the first missions, it was so wonderful for me to help restore the sight of several people. Then I realized that I could have more impact in developing countries by sharing my knowledge with the professionals there, so that they could continue working after we left. They also needed our help to acquire the equipment they need to work. This is the reason my last missions have been designed to provide training to local vision professionals. “

– Can you tell us some of the highlights of a mission?

“There have been many highlights, here are some:

    • The moment when I operated on an 18-year-old young man who had been blind for several years due to cataracts. His brother took 2 days off to pick him up in his village in the middle of the mountains, and bring him to us. The young man had never been able to see his brother’s children. On the Saturday morning before we left, when we removed the bandages from his eyes, we could see his tears of happiness, looking at his nephews and nieces for the first time.
    • In Benin, I had the opportunity to share the operating room with other ophthalmologists of Chinese, Haitian and Beninese origins. During a mission, we have to be prepared for any eventuality, so when the only operating microscope available has no light, we have to be inventive: flashlights can become very useful!
    • One time in Peru, we arrived at the operating room without our instruments, because they had been detained at customs, unfortunately. In this case, we had to create some with what we could find on site. Plan A thus become plans B, C, D or even E! “

– What mission comes to mind when you think of IRIS Mundial and why?

“There is no mission that comes to my mind more than the others. Whenever I think about the missions, I am reminded of the faces of the wonderful people I worked with and the smiles of the people who regained their sight.

A huge THANK YOU to my friend Jean-Pierre who gave us this opportunity to give the best of ourselves and to have all these great experiences. “