Tamale, Ghana Program Details

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

Program Overview

Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellows work with Dr. Seth Wanye, MD, and his ophthalmic staff at Eye Clinic of Tamale Teaching Hospital. Dr. Wanye is the only ophthalmologist for the entire region of 2 million people, and he is also the Northern Region Coordinator for Ghana's Trachoma Control Program. Dr. Wanye and his ophthalmic staff bring eye care to patients living in extreme poverty throughout the northern region of Ghana.

Village Outreaches

Unite For Sight’s Global Impact Fellows and the local ophthalmic nurses are transported by van to the villages in the morning, and then return to Tamale in the late afternoon or evening.   In the remote rural villages in the Northern Region, the local ophthalmic nurse provides exams, diagnosis, treatment, and eyeglasses.  In the village outreach programs, volunteers assist the ophthalmic staff in all aspects of the eye care programs. They take patient history, test visual acuity, assist the ophthalmic nurses, distribute medication and eyeglasses prescribed by the ophthalmic nurses, provide eye health education in the villages and schools, and help with the coordination of patient surgeries. Patients requiring surgery or advanced ophthalmic care are transported to the eye clinic in Tamale, where Dr. Wanye provides ophthalmic care.  The patients receive free surgery funded by Unite For Sight so that no patient remains blind due to lack of funds.

Educational Opportunities

This program provides an extensive and immersive global health experience, and Global Impact Fellows learn about the complexities and realities of global health and social entrepreneurship from the Unite For Sight program as well as from Dr. Wanye and his ophthalmic staff. As the only ophthalmologist for the entire Northern region, as well as a Lecturer at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Dr. Wanye has extensive knowledge about global health that he shares with Global Impact Fellows.

Additionally, for those with a special interest in medicine, ophthalmology, or optometry, Dr. Wanye and the ophthalmic nurses provide opportunities to learn ophthalmic and optometric skills. Global Impact Fellows have an opportunity to observe cataract and pterygium surgeries provided at the eye clinic.

Patients See Results

Unite For Sight has worked with Dr. Wanye since 2005 to build his local capacity to provide eye care for patients living in extreme poverty in Northern Ghana. During 2007, Unite For Sight coordinated and funded 1,594 sight-restoring surgeries provided by Dr. Wanye in Tamale. In 2008, Dr. Wanye provided 1,887 surgeries that were sponsored by Unite For Sight. In 2009, Dr. Wanye provided 2,661 surgeries sponsored by Unite For Sight.

Who Can Be A Global Impact Fellow in the Tamale Program

This program is suitable to anyone 18 years and older who has an interest in international service and health. Volunteers range from gap year students, undergraduate students, and medical students to public health students, public health professionals, nurses, educators, opticians, optometrists, ophthalmology residents, ophthalmologists, filmmakers, photographers, and others. This program is also open to teenagers who would like to accompany a parent who is also a Global Impact Fellow.

What Global Impact Fellows Do

Standard Global Impact Fellows

Volunteers assist the ophthalmic nurses in all aspects of the eye care programs. They take patient history, test visual acuity, assist the eye nurse, distribute medication and eyeglasses prescribed by the eye nurse, provide eye health education in the villages and schools, and help with the coordination of patient surgeries. Volunteers also have an opportunity to observe the surgeries provided by Dr. Wanye at the eye clinic. The previously blind patients leave the eye clinic after surgery with restored sight.

Eye Care Professionals

Emirates Airline Foundation has generously donated free airline tickets for optometrists and ophthalmologists to work with Unite For Sight's partner eye clinics in Ghana. Ophthalmologists participating for at least 1 week, and optometrists participating for at least 4 weeks, are eligible for the donated airline tickets. The donated airline tickets are limited and available on a first come, first serve basis to accepted applicants.

Ophthalmologist volunteers work daily with Dr. Wanye to provide ophthalmic care and perform surgeries. Ophthalmologists also provide skills transfer. Optometrists work with Dr. Wanye's ophthalmic nurses to provide optometric care in rural villages.

Filmmaker and Photography Volunteers

Unite For Sight 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 also 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. The opportunity allows students, filmmakers, and photographers an opportunity to learn about development issues while making a significant impact.

Living and Lodging Expenses

Volunteers lodge in a rented house in Tamale. Lodging and food expenses are no more than $15-$20 per day, and the price varies based on food preferences.

Depending on flight arrival and departure schedules, volunteers may lodge for 1-2 days in Accra at the Telecentre Bed and Breakfast, which costs $20/day for double occupancy. Food expenses in Accra are approximately $10/day.

Volunteers are picked up from the airport in Accra and brought by car to Tamale. The round-trip gas for the 8-10 hour ride ($300) is split between all of the volunteers in the vehicle. Usually the cost is approximately $60-$100 per volunteer, depending on the number of volunteers.

Special Section For Students: Academic Credit, Clinical Rotations, and Research

This program is suitable for undergraduate and public health students interested in pursuing an internship for academic credit, as well as for medical and optometry students interested in pursuing a clinical rotation for academic credit. You should consult your academic institution regarding how you can arrange this type of course credit. 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, as well as details regarding the student's pre-departure online global health coursework and global health field participation. Please review the Academic Credit section of the Unite For Sight website.

This program is also appropriate for undergraduate students, medical students, optometry students, and public health students who would like to pursue a community-based field research project, which requires that the student have a faculty mentor at their home institution as well as IRB approval. Those interested in research should read the Global Impact Lab section of the Unite For Sight website.

Volunteer Perspectives: In Their Own Words

"It was a regular day during a semester filled with biochemistry and other assorted sciences when I sat down at my computer to check my email. My flooded inbox contained many items that I expected to find from professors and friends of mine. There was one message, however, that really grabbed my attention. The Schreyer Honors College was informing their students of an organization called Unite For Sight that battles blindness around the world by partnering with local eye clinics to provide socially responsible global health to some of the world’s poorest countries. At the time, I had no idea that this simple email would change my plans for the summer and, ultimately, the way I view medicine...If you’re planning on working with Unite For Sight, be ready for a little bit of magic to happen. An open mind, some hard work, and the ability to be flexible really can enable you to help make a difference in the world, one set of eyes at a time."--Erik Auker, Global Impact Fellow in Ghana. Read Erik's complete narrative at "My Experiences as a Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana"

"In addition to gaining experience delivering care through an NGO, Unite For Sight’s collaboration with the Ghana Health Services allowed for an even more significant learning experience.  From discussions with Ghanaian ophthalmologist Dr. Wanye, I learned about Ghana’s nationalized health care, how the government health care system pays medical personnel, and the role of public and private care. Through my Unite For Sight internship in Ghana, these additional opportunities to learn about health care fostered a greater foundation for me as I pursue a career in global health, one in which I will both see patients and work to improve systems of health care delivery in local communities.  Having finished my summer internship with Unite For Sight, I am only more curious about variations in cultural understandings of sickness and variations in health care delivery globally.  I have gained more confidence in the pursuit of my career goals, and I look forward to future medical work experiences abroad." --Nicole Penwill, Global Impact Fellow in Ghana. Read Nicole's complete narrative at "My Experiences as a Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana"

"The three weeks I spent volunteering with Unite For Sight as a Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana were some of the most interesting and rewarding of my life, combining the opportunity to learn about life in Ghana, a country new to me, experience the challenges of improving global health and do concrete, useful work to help others... I had such a positive experience with Unite For Sight this past summer and am thrilled to be working as a Williams College Campus Representative this school year.  I hope to be able to spread the word about the amazing work Unite For Sight does by telling people about my experience as a Global Impact Fellow in Tamale."--Sophie Brigstocke, Global Impact Fellow in Ghana. Read Sophie's complete narrative at "My Experiences as a Global Impact Fellow in Ghana"

"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."--Maggie Lovett, Global Impact Fellow in Northern Ghana. Read Sophie's complete narrative at "My Experiences as a Global Impact Fellow in Ghana"

"I could not have begun trying to construct social entrepreneurial ventures without the foundation provided by UFS's global health conference, the extensive pre-departure volunteer training, and the actual on-the-ground experience I gained while abroad on the UFS program. This is why I whole-heartedly recommend the UFS program to anyone interested in global health and international development, public health policy, medicine, social entrepreneurship, nonprofits, human rights, development economics, anthropology, advocacy, or public service."--Celia Gellman, Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana. Read Celia's "Reflections on Entrepreneurial Volunteering in West African Villages"

"At Stanford University, I had studied a great deal about inadequate access to healthcare and the health disparities still existing in the world today; however, such issues did not become real for me until I witnessed the debilitating effects of such problems first-hand in Ghana. My Unite For Sight internship opened my eyes to the work that remains to be done in developing countries, and showed me the importance of establishing sustainable projects that empower individuals to help their local communities long after the volunteers are gone. Since my time in Tamale with Dr. Wanye, I have gone on other global service trips, and I know that international health is the area in which my passion for medicine lies. After attending medical school, I hope to continue serving abroad and help to establish training facilities that will assist communities world-wide, just as Unite For Sight has done."--Joyce Ho, Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana. Read Joyce's "My Experience Volunteering in Tamale, Ghana"

"On an average day of surgery, Dr. Wanye worked nonstop for six hours, seeing 10 patients and operating on 13 eyes with mature cataracts. The procedure itself was twenty minutes and involved using basic tools, many of which I was confident I could find in my medical pharmaceutical lab kit from high school. On one of the outreaches we encountered an eight-year-old girl who was blind. She had been born with bilateral cataracts. In the states, the cataracts would have been removed right after birth, never given the opportunity to mature. Dr. Wanye had to perform surgery for merely forty minutes to give the girl the gift of sight. Without the service and support of Unite For Sight volunteers thousands of Tamale Ghanaians would be suffering from preventable or curable eye conditions."--Farhana Begum, Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana. Read Farhana's "The View From Ghana:"

"Some patients that had only the ability to sense motion in one eye saw improvement in that they would only need refraction to see normally. One younger man had had a congenital cataract in one eye that had blinded him. He left the clinic, and at a one-week post-operative examination, he was able to see with perfect vision, 6/6. These results in the clinic were phenomenal; however, it was the reaction of the people in town that allowed me to truly gauge the impact of my work in the clinic. Walking through town, people would stop me by saying, "Do you remember my father? He can see so well now. Thank you so much" or "My sister, she is so happy now. Thank you." These responses are those that allow us sense that we have touched and helped so many others."--Vanessa Hux, Global Impact Fellow in Tamale, Ghana. Read Vanessa Hux's "New Visions: Working in the Eye Clinic in Tamale, Ghana"

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