By Maggie Lovett
Dalhousie University Student
Summer 2010 (June 20-July 10) Global Impact Fellow
I first heard of Unite For Sight through a newsletter distributed to biology students at my school back in 2009. It immediately piqued my interest not only because of my passion for global health initiatives, but also because of how Unite For Sight’s mandate to eliminate preventable blindness struck home for me. My father suffers from a rare genetic eye disease called choroideremia that leads to complete blindness, and so I have always had a special interest in eye health. Choroideremia currently has no cure or treatment, but knowing that millions of people are needlessly blind is motivation enough to do something.
Every day spent in Tamale during my three-week stay was different. We would leave the house early in the morning and drive to rural villages, sometimes up to two hours away. The screening process required a huge amount of teamwork by Unite For Sight volunteers, the ophthalmic nurse, our coordinator Ali, and the village or school liaisons. Each screening was unique. I loved interacting with the patients in Dagbani – they seemed to appreciate the effort though I know my pronunciation was often laughable! When we did school screenings the children loved practicing their English with us, since they are taught in English in their schools.
I had the opportunity to see and experience so many wonderful things in Ghana. Our group was able to witness the full transformation of patients who had been completely blind. People who had to be led into and out of the operating theatre had their bandages removed the following day and were seeing for the first time in years after having their cataracts removed. Their joy from having their vision restored was not only evident in their smiles, but could be seen in their eyes as well – bright, aware, and inquisitive.
It has been two months since I returned from Ghana, though many of my memories are vivid enough to feel as if I only came home yesterday. After this whole experience, I feel as if my desire to become a physician and serve others has increased a thousand fold. I hope to return to Ghana and Africa one day, as I found three weeks to be far too short. I am definitely looking forward to the future and feel more motivated than ever to continue my involvement in global health.