Online Application: http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/apply

Program Details and Requirements
Optometrists & Ophthalmologists

Global Impact Fellow Program Summary

Requirements

Application Process

Costs

Volunteering

More Information


What is a Global Impact Fellow?

All volunteers participating in Unite For Sight's global health delivery programs are Global Impact Fellows.

Where does Unite For Sight offer volunteer programs?

Unite For Sight offers volunteer programs in India, Ghana, and Honduras.

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 each program location varies slightly, the general program model remains identical. Visiting optometrists and ophthalmologists assist the local eye clinic's staff in all aspects of the eye care programs. They provide eye care alongside the local eye care professionals, and they also provide one-on-one mentoring and skills transfer for the local eye care professionals.

What do Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellows do?

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.

What is the impact of Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellows?

With the assistance of Fellows like you, Unite For Sight has worked with its partner eye clinics to provide sight-restoring surgeries to more than 42,000 patients and provided eye care to more than 1,200,000.

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

Yes, as a volunteer optometrist or ophthalmologist, you will work daily with local ophthalmic nurses, optometrists, and ophthalmologists at the partner eye clinics. You will accompany the local ophthalmic staff into the remote rural villages, slums, and refugee camps, to provide eye care for the communities living in extreme poverty. Ophthalmologists also provide surgery at the eye clinic with the local ophthalmologist(s). You will have a culturally immersive experience.

What are the Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow requirements?

Our priority is to ensure that all Unite For Sight volunteers make a high impact difference while participating abroad. Our research, experience, and evaluation has enabled us to develop a highly successful pre-service training and orientation process that ensures that volunteers are fully prepared to contribute to the success of the Unite For Sight programs. The work of Global Impact Fellows is vitally important, and the result of their work is profound.

The Importance of Preparation: The Perspective of Two Alumni

"I am very impressed with how Unite For Sight prepares their volunteers and has such a good rapport with their organizations that they work with. I like how Unite For Sight is very professional and prepared to help you in every way possible. They thought of almost everything and anything that could affect you while on your trip and prepared you for every situation (through readings, online videos, and other training). In turn, this made for such a wonderful experience during my two weeks."--Nicholas Aurelio

All of the Unite For Sight pre-service requirements can only be completed after a volunteer first applies for and is accepted to the Unite For Sight program.

Easy-To-Use Personal Volunteer Login Page: Unite For Sight provides an easy-to-use personal login page so that fellows can keep track of their pre-service progress and access all relevant program-specific details and materials, program manuals, phone numbers, important links, as well as email addresses of their fellow volunteers and email addresses of alumni participants.

  1. Global Health Training: Optometrists and ophthalmologists complete Unite For Sight's Global Health Online Course and Community Eye Health Online Course, and they review articles about The Importance of Sustainable Development in Eye Care, Effective Health Education, Rumors and Word of Mouth, Photography and Ethics, and Cultural Adjustment.
  2. Insurance: All participants are required to purchase security and medical assistance insurance, as well as medical expense reimbursement insurance, through International SOS.
  3. Passport, VISA, Vaccinations: Receive a Passport and VISA, and get vaccinations and a physical exam. All participants are required to receive all necessary vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis for travel in accordance with The Travelers' Health Report from the National Center of Infectious Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control
  4. Obtain Eyeglasses or Surgical Supplies (IOLs, medication, or other supplies): Volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists obtain surgical supplies or at least 600 reading glasses or sunglasses for donation to the partner eye clinic in the destination country. IOLs and surgical supplies can be obtained from pharmaceutical companies. Eyeglasses can be shipped directly to the volunteers by postal mail if ordered from an organization such as Restoring Vision (U.S.-based volunteers), Lion's Club (Canada-based volunteers, Australia-based volunteers, and others), or other similar organizations worldwide. After receiving the reading glasses and sunglasses in the mail, volunteers pack the collection into their suitcase when traveling to their program site. These reading glasses and sunglasses are distributed to patients by the eye clinic where the volunteer participates. Upon acceptance to the Unite For Sight program, volunteers receive detailed instructions for obtaining reading glasses and sunglasses.
  5. Fundraise (100% provides eye care to patients): Volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists fundraise at least $600 for Unite For Sight's international eye care programs. Fundraising is an essential part of every Fellow's contribution to patients living in extreme poverty. 100% of the fundraising efforts by Unite For Sight's Fellows provide poor patients with free eye care and sight-restoring surgeries. Each cataract surgery costs $50 on average, so every dollar that you fundraise makes a tremendous impact on the lives of children and adults. Additionally, your fundraising efforts help to create public awareness about global eye care needs. Your pre-departure fundraising therefore allows you to make a huge impact before you even go abroad.

    Can I personally pay the $600 instead of fundraising? Yes, you may submit the $600 fundraising requirement as a personal donation if you prefer. Global Impact Fellows rarely pursue this option. We advise you to fundraise among family and friends since this is a great opportunity to engage your family and friends in your upcoming experience abroad. By simply sending their personalized fundraising page to all of their family and friends, Global Impact Fellows usually far exceed the $600 fundraising minimum, and they are therefore able to have an even greater impact on the patients living in extreme poverty. Additionally, by fundraising, you will not need to personally submit the monies.

    Easy-To-Use Personalized Fundraising Page: To help with fundraising efforts, Unite For Sight creates a personal donation fundraising page for all of its Global Impact Fellows and also provides a Fundraising Toolkit. Unite For Sight's Global Impact Fellows are very successful with their fundraising initiatives, and it requires very little of a volunteer's time since they only need to email their fundraising website link to friends and family. As their friends and family submit donations, Unite For Sight automatically records the donations and sends an email to the volunteer as each donation arrives. All donors also receive a receipt for tax purposes, and the donations are tax-deductible to the full extent provided by U.S. law. It usually takes no more than one month for a volunteer to reach the $600 minimum fundraising amount, and some volunteers even reach the fundraising minimum within 1 week. If a volunteer falls short of the fundraising minimum, they may complete their fundraising requirement by submitting the balance from their personal funds. For example, if they are $100 short of the fundraising requirement, they would submit a personal donation of $100 so that they reach the $600 minimum.

    Click To View Examples of Volunteer Fundraising Pages


    Fundraising Toolkit Video: How To Fundraise For Unite For Sight


 

"My Experience Fundraising," By Christine Yeung: Fundraising was a little daunting at first because I had never fundraised before. You should prioritize your list of donors based on how well you know the person and how much you think they can afford. The people who I found, as a student, were able to donate the most in descending order were nuclear family, close relatives, extended family, teachers, parents’ friends, and then my own friends. Another thing that definitely helped was having a pledge form handy with me so that wherever I went, I could give them out if it came up in conversation. I also took the opportunity to make a short 5 minute speech at my parents’ alumni gathering in Toronto. Another thing I found useful was to have an amount in mind that you wanted your donors to donate. It’s easy and polite to say “I’d be happy to accept anything you can afford,” but it generates much better results when you give people a suggested donation (and you should ask close friends and family to figure out what are reasonable amounts to suggest), because it gives them an idea of what to give, and also helps you to achieve your goal of reaching your fundraising target. So what I told my friends and relatives is that, “My goal is to raise $3,000 US for Unite For Sight. I’m asking people to donate about $50, but I’d be happy to accept anything you can give.” In the end, I raised $5,241 on my fundraising page - https://maestro.technolutions.net/go/uniteforsight/volunteers/ref/7ae1fa7ff02e4bbe897f635669d3700f

The Importance of Fundraising: "In the surgery room, people were prepped and operated on at amazing efficiency, as the surgery itself took but seven minutes. Seven miraculous minutes was all it took for people to get their sight back. A miracle not only for them, but an eye opener for me, for I had fundraised enough money for 57 of these people to have this chance to regain their sight, a chance they would not have had without the financial support of Unite For Sight. My experience in Ghana was nothing short of amazing. Not only did I get a hands-on experience in the medical field as an undergraduate, but I realized how preventable blindness can be in many developing countries; so preventable that I, a mere college student, could change 57 lives."--Jaci Theis, Bucknell College Student, Unite For Sight Volunteer in Ghana

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

Volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists can participate from seven days to multiple months, up to a full year or more. Participating for longer periods will not change the pre-departure or participation requirements.

When should I apply? What is the application deadline?

There are no application deadlines. The application process has a rolling deadline, and qualified applicants therefore are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill quickly, and we therefore suggest that you apply as soon as possible. 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 can even apply less than one month in advance of a program. 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 removed from the Program Dates & Locations list as soon as they become unavailable.

How do I apply?

You should submit an application at http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/apply

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 Locations & Dates as they become unavailable.

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

Each applicant for a Unite For Sight program is required to submit their own application. Those applying 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 in their group. Subject to availability and everyone's individual acceptance into the program, you and your colleagues would be placed together.

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

We can make special arrangements for an adult parent to bring a son or daughter who is at least 15 years old. Both the adult parent and the child are required to submit separate applications and are required to be individually accepted to 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.

I am retired. Am I eligible to participate?

Yes, we recognize and value the knowledge and skills offered by volunteers who are retired and very much welcome and encourage their participation. However, in order to practice medicine internationally, you must still be licensed and Board-certified to practice in your home country.

What are the living and lodging costs involved?

Please check the individual programs in the Locations & Dates section of the website for the exact living and lodging expenses that you will incur while abroad. Volunteers pay for their own airfare, travel, VISA, immunizations, insurance, and living expenses. Unite For Sight does not have a program fee, and no funds for travel, lodging, or living expenses are paid directly to Unite For Sight.

Does Unite For Sight have an administrative "program fee"?

No. Unite For Sight does not have an administrative program fee and does not charge volunteers to participate in the program. Unite For Sight operates in a very cost-effective manner so that the organization does not need to pass along typical administrative and volunteer coordination expenses to its volunteers. After completing the Unite For Sight program, Global Impact Fellows will have submitted no personal funds to Unite For Sight, unless they choose to personally donate.

Does Unite For Sight charge tuition?

No. Unite For Sight provides our Global Impact Fellows with a highly educational experience that includes hands-on training in global health. Our Global Impact Training e-learning courses are freely available, and there is no tuition charge for any component of Unite For Sight's programs.

What is the cost of airfare?

Airfare varies based on your starting location, destination location, and the time of year. You can determine the flight cost by going to a travel website such as FlyForGood, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, FlyCheapAbroad or by going directly to the websites of airlines. Volunteers participating in Ghana fly into Accra (ACC). Those participating in New Delhi will fly into the New Delhi airport, while those participating in Chennai will fly into the Chennai airport. Volunteers participating in Bihar, Jodhpur, and Orissa, first fly into the New Delhi international airport before taking a connecting flight to a local airport.

What is the cost of the required International SOS medical assistance, security coverage insurance, and medical expense reimbursement coverage?

The medical assistance and security coverage insurance price varies based on the volunteer's length of time abroad. For example, a 10-day period of security insurance coverage costs $84 and a 1-month period of insurance coverage costs $189. The medical expense reimbursement (health insurance coverage) also varies by the number of days abroad. Coverage for up to 10 days is an additional $29, while coverage for up to 31 days is an additional $53. Therefore, for a volunteer participating for 10 days, the cost would be $84 for medical assistance and security coverage and an additional $29 for health insurance coverage.

After being accepted to a Unite For Sight program, how do I confirm my intent to participate?

Upon acceptance to the program, Global Impact Fellows are required to submit a reimbursable deposit to confirm their commitment and to hold their place in the program. The deposit is fully reimbursed after a Global Impact Fellow successfully completes the Unite For Sight program. Therefore, after completing the Unite For Sight program, volunteers will have submitted no personal funds to Unite For Sight, unless they choose to personally donate. The reimbursable deposit insures that all confirmed fellows will follow through with their commitment to Unite For Sight by participating in the program as planned, and that they will complete their pre-departure requirements.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Unite For Sight provides an amazing opportunity to make a significant, meaningful, tangible impact in the lives of children and adults worldwide. You will have the opportunity to work with remarkable local healthcare professionals who are social entrepreneurs. Additionally, you will immediately see the joys on people's faces when their sight is restored by surgery after years of blindness. You will see children who are thrilled to receive their first pair of eyeglasses, and you will see elderly adults truly grateful for reading glasses so that they can read and sew. These memories will last a lifetime.

You will be engaged in local programs that reduce barriers to health care, including financial, transportation, and education barriers. All patients with operable conditions are brought to the partner eye clinic for surgery, which is funded by Unite For Sight.

In addition to helping the community, you will also be in a position to witness and draw your own conclusions about the failures and inequities of global health systems. It will broaden your view of what works, and what role you can have to insure a health system that works for everyone and that leaves no person blind in the future. We believe that anyone can become part of a global solution.

You will also have the opportunity to provide one-on-one mentoring and professional development opportunities to wonderfully dedicated, committed local eye care professionals.

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 2 volunteers to 22 fellows, and the maximum number of volunteers selected depends on the eye clinic's request and needs. Fellows have access to the names and email addresses of the others participating with them at their program location and during their program dates.

Can I see videos of Unite For Sight programs?

Yes, we have many online video presentations, ranging from films produced in Ghana and India to online lecture presentations by Unite For Sight's partner ophthalmologists and eye clinic staff. We also have many online presentations by previous Unite For Sight volunteers. Videos for each program site can be seen in the Locations & Dates section of the website. Click on a program location (i.e. "Accra and Kumasi Region Program", or "Patna, Bihar"), and scroll down on the page to see a variety of videos and films for the program location.

What is a typical day like?

Volunteer optometrists typically work 8 hours/day for 5-6 days/week in the village outreach programs. They work alongside the local ophthalmic nurses and local optometrists.

Volunteer ophthalmologists typically work at the eye clinic with the local ophthalmologist(s) to provide advanced ophthalmic care and surgeries for patients referred by the ophthalmic nurses and optometrists in the villages. Volunteer ophthalmologists also have the opportunity to spend time in the villages to provide on-site care and professional development opportunities to the local ophthalmic nurses and local optometrists.

Global Impact Fellows relax on days off, and many participate in cultural events and spend a lot of time getting to know the people in the community where they are working.

I am not from the US. 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.

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 involve 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 will all be 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 Chennai, 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 and India. Volunteers from the U.S. and Canada, for example, will need a Visa. 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 participants are required to introduce themselves by email to the eye clinic where they will be volunteering. The eye clinic coordinators and ophthalmologists respond to each volunteer's introductory email, and the clinic and volunteer continue to be in contact with each other prior to the Global Impact Fellow's travel abroad.

Will I be safe?

Unite For Sight's Global Impact Corps program has an impeccable safety record, and the safety of our volunteers is our highest priority. Our Global Impact Fellows 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 Global Impact Fellows. Unite For Sight has a very close, long-term working relationship with each of our eye clinic partners. Additionally, Global Impact Fellows participate only in countries and locations that are considered safe and stable by the U.S. State Department.

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

In addition to the ground support that is 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, Global Impact Fellows have professional assistance immediately available by International SOS. Each Global Impact Fellow 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. Fellows also often use their Unite For Sight cell phone to stay connected with their family at home.

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

We also require Global Impact Fellows 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, CDC Traveler's Health, and World Health Organization's H1N1 (Swine Flu) Preparation.

Additionally, Global Impact Fellows 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.

Will I have internet access?

The locations with the best internet access are Bihar and Accra. You can access the internet from all other program sites as well, but the internet is simply not as reliable or accessible on a daily basis.

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

Yes. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are especially encouraged to pursue research projects. 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 Unite For Sight to develop your research study. In your application to the Unite For Sight program, please discuss your preliminary interest in pursuing a research project.

Where can I learn about the magnitude of eye care needs in developing countries?

Unite For Sight compiled statistics about eye care needs, which you can see at http://uniteforsight.org/eye_stats.php By participating in Unite For Sight's programs, you will be able to see the reality of these numbers.

Who should I contact if I have other questions?

Send an email to Amy Bellman Davis, Senior Program Manager, at adavis@uniteforsight.org