CHAPEL HILL- UNC’s academic year is over, but a pair of Tar Heel graduate students working toward a master’s degree in public health are still hard at work—and they’re preparing to join an effort to combat blindness around the globe.

One of the students, Casey McCormick of Charlotte, says she and fellow grad student Michael Wilson will be flying to Hanoi, Vietnam to work with a program known as Helen Keller International.

“We’re basically taking an already existing program that they’ve developed in a different province of Vietnam and moving it to an urban setting in Hanoi,” she says. “Then we’re kind of pairing that with a nutrition program because when you don’t eat properly, that has a big effect on your eyesight, and they’ve seen that with the younger generations in Vietnam.”

While in Hanoi, McCormick and Wilson will be helping to implement a program known as the ChildSight initiative into Hanoi’s schools. The program will provide free eye exams and glasses to needy children in Hanoi. The Western Asia-Pacific Region, including Vietnam, has the highest rate of far-sightedness in the world, with about 62 million cases.

McCormick says she decided to go on the trip because of its relevance to her chosen line of work.

“I’ve never experienced or been anywhere near Southeast Asia or taken any sort of classes about that region or culture, and I didn’t think it was appropriate to go forth with a global health degree without experiencing all parts of the globe,” she says.

And McCormick says having Wilson on the trip with her will make the trip even more of a learning experience.

“It’s definitely going to allow us to be more confident in the work we’re doing because we’ll have someone next to us who knows what we’re talking about and was in the same classes with us,” she says. “So, we’ll be able to bounce ideas off each other.”

McCormick and Wilson plan to leave for Vietnam on June 2.