Frequently Asked Questions

Global Impact Fellow Program Summary

Requirements

Application Process

Costs

Volunteering

Academic Credit For Students

More Information


What is a Global Impact Fellow?

Global Impact Fellows are Unite For Sight international volunteers participating in Ghana (for 2+ weeks), India, or Honduras. Unite For Sight also offers one-week volunteer opportunities in Ghana.

Where does Unite For Sight offer volunteer programs?

Volunteers participate with Unite For Sight's partner eye clinics in Ghana, Honduras, and India.

Is the Unite For Sight program a hands-on global health experience?

Yes, the program is a fully hands-on experience, and participants gain a comprehensive understanding about the complexities and realities of global health. While the individual programs vary slightly, the general program model is identical at each program location. Volunteers assist the eye clinic's staff in all aspects of the eye care programs. They take patient history, test visual acuity, observe the eye doctors providing exams and diagnosis, distribute medication and eyeglasses prescribed by the local eye doctors, provide eye health education in the villages and schools, and help with the coordination of patient surgeries. Volunteers also have opportunities to observe sight-restoring surgeries provided at the eye clinic.

While non-eye care professionals assist local Ghanaian, Honduran, and Indian ophthalmic staff, volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists apply their skills and training to provide eye care to the patients alongside the local eye doctors. Volunteer ophthalmologists also work with the local ophthalmologists to provide surgical care to patients screened by Unite For Sight's programs.

Do I need to be interested in eye care in order to participate?

Absolutely not. In fact, the majority of our Global Impact Fellows have a broader interest in medicine, public health, anthropology, social entrepreneurship, and other aspects of global health and international development. Global Impact Fellows have the opportunity to incorporate their personal interests and skills into their participation in Unite For Sight's global health delivery programs.

I am an optometrist or ophthalmologist. What will I do?

Volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists apply their skills and training to provide eye care to the patients alongside the local eye doctors. Optometrists share knowledge and skills with local optometrists and ophthalmic nurses, while ophthalmologists provide surgical training and skills transfer to local ophthalmologists. Please review comprehensive details at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/optometrists-ophthalmologists.

Will I be able to work closely with the local community?

Yes. As a Global Impact Fellow, you will work daily with local ophthalmic nurses, optometrists, and ophthalmologists at the partner eye clinics. You will accompany the local ophthalmic staff into remote rural villages, slums, and refugee camps to provide eye care for communities living in extreme poverty. You will have a culturally immersive experience.

What are the Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow requirements?

Please see complete details about requirements at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/program-requirements.

What is the minimum and maximum amount of time that I can participate?

Volunteers in Ghana may stay for one-week (our short-term program), or for multiple weeks, up to one year, in our Global Impact Corps Program.

Who is eligible to be a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow?

Anyone can participate, from any country. Volunteers are 18 years and older, and there is no upper age limit. Those between the ages of 15 and 17 may participate as long as they participate with a parent who is also a volunteer. You may see complete details about eligibility at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/who-volunteers.

What if I don't have previous health experience?

Unite For Sight welcomes volunteers who may have little or no previous health experience. All volunteers, regardless of their previous level of health experience, will have hands-on involvement in global health delivery, and they help at a level appropriate for their individual level of training and comfort. We also welcome volunteers to participate as photographers and filmmakers.

When should I apply? What is the application deadline?

For those participating in our short-term (one week) program in Ghana, only registration is required, and there is not an application process.

There is not an application deadline for the Global Impact Corps program. Unite For Sight accepts applications on a rolling application deadline, and qualified applicants are therefore accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill quickly, and we therefore suggest that you apply as soon as you decide you would like to participate. You may apply more than a full year in advance, or you may apply a few months in advance. If there is still space available, you may apply less than one month in advance of a program, though this is not encouraged since all programs may be filled, and you would have little time to prepare. Those who apply early can lock in their first choice program location and program dates before programs start becoming filled. Our website shows the programs that are currently available and accepting applications, and filled programs are crossed off on the Dates list as soon as they become unavailable.

How competitive is the application process?

For those participating in our short-term (one week) program in Ghana, all registrants are accepted, pending availability. Volunteer's participation in the Program, however, may be terminated at any time for failure to adhere to the Unite For Sight Volunteer Agreement and Code of Conduct, as determined by Unite For Sight in its sole discretion.

For the Global Impact Corps Program, the first qualified applicants are accepted, so we advise applying as soon as you decide you would like to participate. We accept those with quality applications and strong letters of recommendation that indicate the applicant will be a dedicated and motivated Global Impact Fellow. Good letters of recommendation are very important for the selection process. Be thoughtful and honest in your application essay responses, and consider your own interests and ideas about providing quality health care in the developing world.

How do I know which program locations and dates are still available?

Our website shows all of the programs that are currently available and accepting applications, and filled programs are removed from Dates as they become unavailable.

My friends and I would like to participate together in the Unite For Sight Global Impact Corps program. Can we apply together, or should we submit separate applications?

Each applicant for a Unite For Sight program is required to submit his or her own application or enrollment form. Those planning to participate together should indicate identical program dates and locations on their applications, and they can also include on their application the name(s) of the others with whom they wish to participate. Subject to availability and everyone's individual acceptance into the program, you and your friends would be placed together. Groups of six or more are eligible for discounted required donation amounts. Contact Rachel at rturkel@uniteforsight.org for more information.

Can I bring my son or daughter? Can families participate together?

We welcome adult parents to bring sons and/or daughters who are at least 15 years old. Both the adult parent and the child are required to submit separate applications and must be individually enrolled in the program. The family members can be placed together in the same program. All participants are also required to complete the pre-departure requirements and participate fully in the Unite For Sight program. Family groups of six or more are eligible for discounted required donation amounts. Contact Rachel at rturkel@uniteforsight.org for more information.

I am a high school student. Am I eligible to participate?

Yes! Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to participate. Additionally, those between the ages of 15 and 17 may participate as Global Impact Fellows as long as they participate with an adult parent or older sibling (older than 24 years old) who is also a Global Impact Fellow. For example, Priya Srinivasan participated with her mother in 2009, and she wrote a narrative about her experience as a high school participant in the Global Impact Corps: http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/ghana/priya-srinivasan.

I am retired. Am I eligible to participate?

Yes, we recognize and value the knowledge and skills offered by volunteers who are retired, and we welcome and encourage their participation.

How much will it cost to participate?

You may review complete details about costs at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/reqs

What is high-impact entrepreneurial volunteering?

Unite For Sight motivates and encourages its Global Impact Fellows to be proactive and entrepreneurial. Unite For Sight's Global Impact Fellows are deeply involved and invested in being part of a high-impact solution to preventable eye disease. While the Global Impact Fellows are involved in outreach programs that provide eye care to thousands globally every day, they also frequently develop their own projects and research studies that dovetail with Unite For Sight's outreach programs. The diverse talents, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit of Unite For Sight's Global Impact Fellows help develop and hone new strategies to address the urgent preventable and curable eye care problems that afflict more than 36 million people worldwide.

While all Global Impact Fellows do not develop and implement their own entrepreneurial ideas while volunteering with Unite For Sight, every fellow is engaged in Unite For Sight's commitment to create real change. All Global Impact Fellows provide support and assistance to local ophthalmologists and eye clinics in developing countries, fundraise to restore sight to blind patients living in extreme poverty, transport eyeglasses and medical supplies to eye clinics, and raise awareness in their home communities about the urgent problem of preventable blindness.

How many other Global Impact Fellows will be in my program?

The number of volunteers in each program varies based on program location and program dates. The maximum number of fellows at a particular site for any time period ranges from two volunteers to 25 volunteers, and the maximum number of volunteers selected depends on the eye clinic's request and needs. Volunteers have access to the names and email addresses of the other volunteers who will be participating with them at their program location.

Can I see videos of Unite For Sight programs?

Yes, we have many online video presentations, ranging from films produced in Ghana India, and Honduras to online lecture presentations by Unite For Sight's partner ophthalmologists and eye clinic staff, all available athttp://www.youtube.com/uniteforsight/.

What is a typical day like?

Volunteers typically work 8 hours/day for 5-6 days/week. Volunteers relax on days off, and many participate in cultural events and spend time getting to know the people in the community in which they are working.

I'm a filmmaker, photographer, or student of film/photography. What can I do to help?

Unite For Sight's filmmaker and photographer volunteers document the voices of patients who receive sight-restoring eye care through Unite For Sight programs. The videos and photos promote awareness and information about global eye care needs and demonstrate the commitment and dedication of Unite For Sight's local partner eye doctors, who work tirelessly to provide eye care to those living in extreme poverty.

Volunteers work with Unite For Sight to develop special film and photo projects for advocacy purposes, which provides students, filmmakers, and photographers an opportunity to learn about development issues while making a significant impact.

Filmmaker and photography professionals fundraise $600. Previous filmmaker and photography student volunteers have developed their projects with Unite For Sight into course or honors projects for their university.

Those who apply and are accepted as film/photographer volunteers participate exclusively as photographers or filmmakers. If photographers or filmmakers are also interested in participating as standard volunteers, they should apply to be accepted as a "Standard Volunteer" so that they can participate in all aspects of the Unite For Sight programs in addition to their role as filmmakers or photographers. To participate as a "Standard Volunteer", the filmmaker or photographer volunteer does not need any previous health experience.

I am not from the U.S. Am I eligible to participate?

Yes, Unite For Sight's Global Impact Fellows come from countries throughout the world, including the United States, Canada, Denmark, England, Lithuania, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Japan, India, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, and Australia. We welcome people from any country to apply.

I am planning a Gap Year. Can I participate?

Yes! Unite For Sight welcomes students between high school and college to participate in the Unite For Sight programs for short- or long- term placements. The programs in Bihar (India), Orissa (India), and the Accra and Kumasi Regions (Ghana) are especially suitable for Gap Year participants. If the participant is fluent or near-fluent in Spanish, the Honduras program is also suitable. Unite For Sight also welcomes students between college and graduate school to participate in any of the programs for short- or long-term placements.

Where will I stay?

Unite For Sight's eye clinic partners arrange for the volunteer accommodations in hospital dormitories, guest houses, or local hotels. One of Unite For Sight's programs involves lodging with a family of physicians from the eye clinic. Please read the program site details to learn about the lodging location for your desired internship. Volunteers are required to lodge in the Program Site accommodations.

Will I have access to a phone while abroad?

Yes. Unite For Sight provides a cell phone to each volunteer. Free minutes are provided to volunteers for use in case of an emergency. Volunteers may also purchase extra minutes if they would like to use the cell phone for personal purposes.

Will I be picked up from the airport?

Yes. Unite For Sight's partner eye clinics and coordinators arrange for each participant's pickup from the airport.

Will everyone speak English?

The doctors and Unite For Sight coordinators are all fluent in English. In Ghana, the official language is English. In India, the middle and upper class population receive all of their schooling in English. However, those in rural villages with little access to education and health care will usually speak only local languages. If you do not have knowledge of the local language, the doctors, coordinators, or translators will assist you with communication.

As Pradeep Mettu, Unite For Sight Volunteer in India, wrote about his experience: "The language barrier ultimately made the experience even more meaningful. Since communication was always an issue, I learned a great deal about the human touch and the intangibles that create a universal language between the health care provider and the patient."

Will I need a Visa?

Depending on your country of citizenship, you will most likely need a Visa in order to enter Ghana or India. Volunteers from the U.S. and Canada, for example, will need a Visa. Volunteers going from the U.S. to Honduras for 90 days or more will require a Visa; U.S.-based volunteers participating in Honduras for less than 90 days do not need a visa, and the requirements are similar for other countries of origin. Obtaining a Visa involves a basic paper application process to the Ghanaian or Indian Embassy in the volunteer's home country. The Visa is stamped onto the volunteer's Passport by the Ghanaian or Indian Embassy.

Can I communicate with the eye clinic before I begin my program?

Yes! In fact, all accepted Global Impact Fellows are required to introduce themselves by email to the eye clinic with which they will be volunteering. The eye clinic coordinators and ophthalmologists respond to each volunteer's introductory email, and the clinic and volunteer remain in contact with each other prior to the Global Impact Fellow's travel abroad.

Will I be safe?

Unite For Sight's volunteer program has an impeccable safety record, and the safety of our volunteers is our highest priority. Our volunteers are locally led and managed by our eye clinic partners, and they work daily with the local ophthalmic nurses, optometrists, and ophthalmologists who are committed and attentive to the safety of the volunteers. Unite For Sight has a very close, long-term working relationship with each of our eye clinic partners.

Upon arriving abroad, the volunteers are picked up from the airport by the eye clinic and driven to the program lodging site. All volunteers are required to lodge at the designated program lodging site, which is a local hotel or guest house.

In addition to the ground support provided by the local eye care professionals, we also require all volunteers to purchase International SOS security and medical assistance coverage. If there were to be any unexpected situation requiring professional security or travel medicine assistance, volunteers would have professional assistance immediately available by International SOS. Each volunteer receives a Unite For Sight local cell phone upon arriving abroad, and this cell phone can be used to reach International SOS at any time. Volunteers also often use their Unite For Sight-provided cell phones to stay connected with their families at home.

Unite For Sight has an emergency protocol system in place to ensure a quick response to any emergency situation. The eye clinic, volunteers, and their families may contact Unite For Sight's headquarters at any time.

We also require volunteers to prepare for and ensure their personal safety while abroad. The required pre-departure safety training includes a review of the U.S. State Department's Preparing To Travel Abroad, A Safe Trip Abroad, and CDC Traveler's Health.

Additionally, volunteers are required to register their travel with their home country. For example, U.S. citizens are required to register with the U.S. Department of State, Canadian citizens are required to register with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, U.K. citizens are required to register with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Irish citizens are required to register with Department of Foreign Affairs, Australian citizens are required to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand citizens are required to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and citizens of other countries are required to register with their country's comparable department.

In addition to hands-on service and clinical opportunities while abroad, what other educational experiences are afforded to Global Impact Fellows?

Global Impact Fellows complete Global Impact Training as part of their pre-departure requirements. Prior to their travel abroad, Global Impact Fellows have therefore already gained extensive knowledge about global health delivery, and they are well prepared to make a significant impact with the eye clinic abroad.

Upon arriving abroad, Global Impact Fellows receive orientation from the eye clinic. They then proceed to work 5-6 days per week with the partner eye clinic to provide eye care for those living in extreme poverty. They are immersed in effective public health programs and learn first-hand about best practices in global health.

I will be applying for medical school while I'm abroad with the Unite For Sight program. Will I have internet access so that I can submit my applications online?

Yes, many volunteers work on their medical school applications during evenings and weekends while participating in the Unite For Sight program. The locations with the best internet access are Bihar and Accra; Bihar has the best and most reliable internet access on a daily basis. You can access the internet from all other program sites as well, but the internet is not as reliable or accessible.

Can I receive academic credit?

Yes, Unite For Sight will complete student performance evaluations required by a university so that a student can receive academic credit. We can also provide a letter for the university that confirms a student's planned participation in the Unite For Sight program and describes the student's pre-departure online global health coursework and global health field participation. Please read about coordinating academic credit at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/academic-credit.

Can I pursue the Unite For Sight program as a medical elective/clinical rotation?

Yes. Each year, many medical students pursue a Unite For Sight program as a medical elective.

Can I pursue the Unite For Sight program as a public health school practicum?

Yes. We often have MPH students pursue the Unite For Sight program in order to fulfill their practicum/field experience requirement.

Can I do research as a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow?

Yes. Undergraduate students, medical students, public health students, and other graduate students are especially encouraged to pursue research projects. Pursuing a research project requires a student to have a faculty mentor at their home university, and IRB approval is also required. Those interested in research are urged to review the Global Impact Lab section of our website.

Global Impact Fellows interested in pursuing a research project should first apply for the Unite For Sight program and be accepted as a Unite For Sight volunteer. You will then work with your faculty mentor at your university and with Unite For Sight to develop your research project. In your application to the Unite For Sight program, please discuss your preliminary interest in pursuing a research project. For example, are you interested in a public health research study, or are you more interested in a clinically-focused research study?

Global Impact Fellows pursuing research studies are required to complete Unite For Sight's Certificate in Global Health Research, which prepares participants for the critical ethical and methodological issues involved with research in the developing world.

I'm a student at Yale University. What is the Yale UCS/Unite For Sight internship?

Unite For Sight welcomes volunteers from all countries worldwide. Yale Undergraduate Career Services has a special program that works annually to support Yale undergraduate students in their volunteer programs with Unite For Sight. If you are a Yale student and would like to qualify for the UCS Unite For Sight-Yale internship, Yale requires that you volunteer for at least eight weeks during the summer. The UCS internship may make you eligible for Yale's ISA funding. If you are a Yale student and prefer not to volunteer for eight weeks, you can apply to be a standard Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow for seven days or more.

Can I pursue the Unite For Sight program as part of my ophthalmology residency program?

Yes! We have many ophthalmology residents who participate as standard Global Impact Fellows and pursue the Unite For Sight programs in order to gain exposure to providing eye care to patients living in extreme poverty. Ophthalmology residents have an opportunity in Bihar, India, to receive surgical training in SICS and Phaco. They also work with local eye doctors in Bihar to provide on-site exams, diagnosis, medication, and eyeglasses for patients in villages. Ophthalmology residents may also participate in the Ghana programs, where they work in the rural villages with local eye doctors to provide diagnosis and treatment. Surgical training programs are not provided at Unite For Sight's Ghana eye clinic partners, and ophthalmology residents are therefore only able to perform surgery on patients through the established surgical training programs in Bihar, India. You may review complete details online at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/ophthalmology-residents

Who should I contact if I have other questions?

Send an email to Rachel Turkel at rturkel@uniteforsight.org, or call Rachel Turkel at 203-404-4900.