What do people need? A bed on which to sleep not hungry. With this lesson Dr. Anelia Hohvarter started her exciting story during the meeting with the Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria. Dr. Hohvarter who is one of “Buditeli of 2017” shared with the guests her stories about her volunteer medical missions in Yemen, Zimbabwe and Etiopia. ”During these missions I went there to teach local doctors, to lay the foundations of the retinal surgery in some of these countries. It turned out that I too learned a lot of humility, tolerance for the different, of appreciating what I have because some people have less but are happier”, Anelia Hohvarter said.
First Hohvarter’s mission is in 2009 on the island of Sokostra, Yemen. This region is famous for its piratеs.
Her satisfaction of this mission is based on the fact that together with her team they have managed to help a lot of people most of them children. 23% of all examined were with urgent illness that required immediate medical cares in order to stop damaging or losing sight. „It is really interesting how people in this poor region prepare to see a doctor. For them this is an important event and they wear their best clothes”.
A reason for professional pride is Dr. Hohvarter’s discovery receiving international recognition and followed by the information campaign for the Yemen’s population. It turned out that local women had unusual darkened features on the retina of their eyes. The initial assumption that this is a result of the proximity of burka to the eyes was false. It turned out that the obscuration in the eyes was the consequence of mixing metal raspings to thicken with the material used for a black eye pencil.
“After that I was in Zimbabwe (2011-2012) when I saw the heaven“, Dr. Hohvarter said. There she encountered a lot of prejudices. “In Zimbabwe wealth people gave a lot of money in order to be operated by white doctor. I was white but on the other hand I was a woman which initially reduced the price”, Dr. Hohvarter explained.
Her professionalism is her main priority and her knowledge and skills quickly turned her into a local celebrity. “Can you imagine that in Zimbabwe which is a multi-million country had only 26 ophthalmologists while in our clinic in Vienna there are 8 retinal surgeons”.To be as useful as possible during the mission she refused to live in a hotel that cost 140 dollars per night and stayed in her colleague’s modest home together with his wife, children and babysitter. “According to local perceptions they were rich”, Anelia explained, showing a picture of a little one-storey house with modest interior but with always smiling faces.
She shared about her third mission that “…Etiopia became my second motherland”. The second poorest country in Africa impressed her with its tolerance between religions whose followers live peacefully in the country. Ms. Hohvarter and her team decided to establish the first retinal center in the country with the population of 30 million. The screwdriver became an important working tool for the doctors as they have to repair their tools themselves. During the mission “…without electricity and internet over the course of months is a little bit lonely”, Dr. Hohvarter writes in her book “Traveling” dedicated to her volunteer medical missions in Africa. The book is translated in German and English languages.