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Park City High School junior Sara Tabin traveled to Ethiopia in August to volunteer at a hospital that offers low-cost cataract surgeries. Photo Courtesy of cureblindness.org
For most teens, summer camp means canoeing, archery and sleeping in tents. But Park City High School junior Sara Tabin's summer camp experience took place at Stanford University, where activities included classes about human rights issues and human trafficking.

"I know, I am a complete nerd," she admits.

As for her end-of-summer vacation before going back to school? That was spent volunteering at a clinic in Ethiopia helping her dad, Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, perform cataract surgeries at a hospital in Mek'ele, Ethiopia.

"I just really like to help people. Some people have passions for math or sports but for me my biggest passion is trying to make people happy," she said.

Tabin prepared for the trip by taking an online course for ophthalmology assistants. But she admits that she was apprehensive. When she was younger, she resisted traveling with her dad who co-founded an organization that provides eye care to developing countries around the world.

"I was scared of germs and bugs," But Tabin conquered those fears after traveling to Ghana and seeing the impact of her dad's work. During that trip, Tabin watched a three-year-old girl's life transformed after her sight was restored. "That was the trip that changed my life," she said.

On this trip, though, she played an active role in helping to prep patients for surgeries and caring for them afterwards.

Tabin, her dad and a small team flew to Ethiopia in August. It was a 20-hour trip that took the young student to another continent and a completely different culture.


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Though overwhelming at first, Tabin said she was won over by the Ethiopians' upbeat demeanor.

"Ethiopians are a lot more emotionally expressive. They not only smile, they ululate when they are happy and it is a beautiful sound. It is a smile you can hear."

During the trip, the team performed 714 cataract surgeries. Tabin helped by lining patients up for exams and administering pre-surgery anesthesia, and post op care. She said she especially liked leading blind patients and reassuring them before the procedures.

Tabin is one of several Park City High School students who participated in humanitarian missions this summer and she credits the school with fostering an awareness of international issues. Others traveled to India and Vietnam. Next month Tabin and a handful of classmates will head to China on a student exchange program. In the meantime she is busy catching up on school work.

According to Tabin, "To see Ethiopia in itself is such a cool opportunity. And volunteering makes me a little more grateful for what I have. I feel really blessed."