My Experiences as a Global Impact Fellow in Honduras

By Aron Gedansky
University of Pittsburgh Student
Global Impact Fellow

I participated in Unite For Sight’s Global Impact Corps volunteer program in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. On a sunny summer morning, I boarded a plane in Boston and a few hours later, I was flying over the picturesque mountain landscape of Honduras. I met up with the other volunteers at the airport and we were all immediately greeted by the ZOE clinic driver and all-around handyman Javier. This gesture alone speaks greatly to how Unite For Sight and the local eye clinic looks out for its volunteers. It can be a bit overwhelming being in a completely new place at first, but if somebody is there with the volunteers from the start to help them get acclimated to the area, it is much easier to start enjoying the area and culture around you, and will undoubtedly lessen the chance of experiencing some degree of culture shock.

The first week working in the eye clinic was amazing. On the very first day, I shadowed Honduran ophthalmologist Dr. Flores in the clinic and was able to observe cataract surgeries in the afternoon. It wasn’t just observing and watching that made me enjoy my first week in the clinic. The volunteers, including myself, were all trained on how to perform visual acuities, how to take patient history, and how to use the autorefractor. Later in the week, we traveled a few hours outside of Tegucigalpa to the villages of Choluteca and Amapala where I used what I learned in the clinic to help set up a portable eye clinic in local churches. Each outreach clinic had a check-in area, a station for visual acuities, an area for the autorefractor, an area where Victor the Honduran optometrist saw patients, and an eyeglass station, where people took their prescriptions given to them by Victor to get new eyeglasses.

The autorefractor was one of my favorite stations because you could look into people’s eyes and get a better understanding of the anatomy of the eye with a close-up view. I enjoyed working at the eyeglass station the most because I got to see firsthand a person’s vision improve, which is the main reason why I volunteered in the first place, to help people who didn’t necessarily have the resources to see to their full potential, whether the limitation be financial or a matter of not being able to come to Tegucigalpa for eyecare. In some cases, a person would go from barely being able to tell how many fingers somebody was holding up to being able to read at a distance after getting their eyeglasses. It felt good to know that I was a part of that.

Working with the local eye clinic staff was a huge treat and a great learning experience. First of all, everybody was so friendly and welcomed us with open arms. One thing I noticed about the staff in the eye clinic is that it wasn’t just about the medical aspect of patient care. They took time to socialize and chat with patients. I believe that the social aspect of medicine is sometimes as important, if not more important than the scientific aspect, because it is common for people to feel nervous or apprehensive about healthcare. In my opinion, socializing with patients helps to put a worried mind at ease.

My trip to Honduras was a great learning experience and it will be one I will never forget. Before I went, I had a solid interest in Spanish, but never was able to really put my Spanish speaking to the test outside of classrooms and textbooks. In Honduras, I spoke as much Spanish as possible while interacting with the local community and was able to enjoy and appreciate the culture so much more because of it. When I returned to the United States, I kept on speaking Spanish, even at times when I didn’t mean to, because it was subconsciously burned into the back of my mind. Someday in the future, I want to return to Honduras as a doctor and work with local clinics. This experience is one I will always hold on to and I know that it will help me greatly in my future as a doctor.