Reflections on Global Impact Volunteering in Ghana

By Abbie Naus
University of Notre Dame
Global Impact Fellow

I spent two months in Ghana working with the Unite For Sight teams at Crystal Eye Clinic in Accra, Charity Eye Clinic in Kumasi, and Northwestern Eye Clinic in Accra. During my time in Ghana, I participated in the routine daily outreach duties of each clinic such as conducting visual acuity tests, helping with registration, distributing eyeglasses and medicines prescribed by the local doctors, and observing the doctors. In addition to these, my primary role was interviewing patients for my IRB-approved research project regarding patient perspectives on Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme. I interviewed between 5 and 15 patients every day, often working with a translator volunteering from the community in which the team happened to be working that day.         

One of my favorite aspects of the Unite For Sight program was how they kept me on the move and how they focused on organizing the programs to make volunteers an integral part of the daily routine. Since I was part of a two-month stay, I also had the opportunity to work in many different communities throughout the varied regions of Ghana and with the unique people and community leaders in each of these places. The staff of each clinic was incredibly welcoming, and from them, I learned a lot about the challenges of eye care as well as other health concerns prevalent in Ghana. I also learned from the community volunteers at each clinic outreach location. I also got to explore the culture and learn about customs from my interactions with staff and patients at the outreaches and clinic and in the city during free time off from work.

Although I was only in Ghana two months, I felt like a part of the Unite For Sight community by the end of my stay. The fact that the daily outreaches typically set up on a monthly rotation continue year round, with or without the flood of summer volunteers, was astounding to me. That summer, I was able to travel on a weeklong outreach to the Western region with Crystal Eye Clinic twice, once in June and a month later in July, during my last week in Ghana. During that second trip, some of the patients from the month before called out my name to me. The community volunteers in the region knew who I was, and some of the community members whom I interviewed asked me how my research project on the health insurance was progressing. I cannot stress that rewarding feeling of recognizing some of the individuals with whom I was working and having them recognize me as well. Although my time in Ghana was ultimately short and my individual impact small, being a part of Unite For Sight is long term, and the experience is one I would not trade.