All Aboard The Phelophepa Train of Hope!

This week we hear from Samantha Davidson, an Optical Assistant at Vision Express Buchanan Galleries and is in her third year studying optometry at Glasgow Caledonian University. She is currently in South Africa volunteering her services on the Phelophepa Train of Hope seeing people from impoverished communities in need of vision care.


I am sitting down to write this post after having finished packing for a trip that I hope will be the greatest experience of my life to date. On Friday 13th May I will wave goodbye to my home comforts and family for two weeks as I leave to travel to Johannesburg. There, myself and another three friends will join the Phelophepa train, or more commonly known as the Train of Hope by the locals.

The train travels all across rural South Africa for most of the year and I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in the on-board eye clinic for two weeks. I was introduced to the charity through my lecturer Niall Strang at Glasgow Caledonian University where I am in third year studying Optometry.

When I was in school and deciding on a degree I always knew I wanted a job where I would be able to help and work with people whilst incorporating my love for all things science. Optometry seemed like the perfect career choice and I have never looked back. I have been working in the Vision Express store in Buchanan Galleries for about a year and a half, where I have been made to feel part of a team that is so focussed on providing excellent service and professional eye care.

The support I have received from Vision Express regarding my trip has helped so much, whether it be good advice or practising using different equipment. It is this team ethos and support that helped make up my mind that Vision Express was the company I would like to stay within for doing my pre-registration year after I finish university, and I am happy to say that I have been given the fantastic opportunity to do so.

Since hearing about the opportunity to go on work on The Train of Hope I have been beyond excited at the chance to give people glasses that will change their life for the better. I am looking forward to putting my last three years of work at university to use for such a good cause that makes such a difference in people’s lives.


The eye clinic on-board the train of hope was the original focus of the train. What started as a 3 carriage eye clinic has now expanded to an impressive 18 carriage full health service with an on-board pharmacy, dental clinic, health clinic, psychology clinic and education clinic too. The eye clinic alone will see around 150 patients a day. I am expected to carry out about 15 eye tests which I know I will find extremely challenging at the start of my trip, however, by the end I am hoping that my confidence will have boosted and everything I have learned will fall into place. In the long run, this experience will help my own studies a great deal. The eye clinic provides same day prescription spectacles, so far over 500,000 spectacles have been made and distributed by this clinic.

Our journey will start the rural town of Vryburg for the first week and then move onto Delareyville the second week. The testing conditions on the train are very different to the set-up at home, with the majority of the eye tests being performed outside.

I am so looking forward to being part of something that is going to positively impact on the life of others who don’t have access to the same facilities that we do. To find out more about this amazing organisation or to donate, visit Follow this link to see a walk-through of the Phelophepa train to see what it is actually like!

To keep up to date with Samantha’s journey go follow @VisionExpress on twitter.

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