Reflections on Global Impact Volunteering in Ghana

By Dr. Calvin T. Eng
Global Impact Corps Ophthalmologist Volunteer

My involvement with Unite For Sight (UFS) began through my search for a worthy organization to donate ophthalmic equipment and supplies to.  Unite For Sight seemed to fit my criteria.  I found its mission and organization so compelling that I not only donated to the cause, but I later decided to participate personally as a volunteer in the Accra, Ghana program.  It proved to be a unique and satisfying opportunity to make a personal impact on some global health problems and to interact with many aspiring future health care participants. I had the opportunity to take my high school age son with me and engage him with like-minded, motivated volunteers from many parts of America and Canada.  My role as a practicing ophthalmologist from the United States was not so much skilled medical labor to perform hands-on surgical care to local patients, but as a colleague and peer, sharing in the knowledge and techniques in the use of equipment donated by UFS supporters.  It was as educational for me to experience surgery with internationally sourced equipment, lenses, supplies, and techniques as it was for UFS-supported ophthalmologists to perform phacoemulsification procedures and implant foldable intraocular lenses under my guidance.  Additionally, it was satisfying to see the actual, physical impact that the fundraising, glasses collecting, and participation in the local screening events had on each individual patient receiving care through the UFS program.  Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from practicing surgeons and optometrists to medical students, premedical college and high school students, as well as dedicated and well-intentioned laymen who all feel compelled to make a difference on a global stage. It was reassuring for me to see how the money generated through the required fundraising is spent directly on the payment of the surgical procedures sponsored by UFS, performed by the local partner surgeons, and verified by the on-site monitoring of the UFS volunteers.  Each pair of glasses dispensed to the hundreds of patients was hand carried with great effort and personal challenge by the volunteers from their place of origin to the field abroad. The additional opportunity of living in the sponsored accommodations, though not luxurious, was a valuable experience for us to become familiar with the local standard of living, indigenous food, and social culture of the people we served. 

UFS is a uniquely conceived, well-run, and well-executed organization that combines the strength of our first world resources -- fundraising and a pool of well educated, motivated volunteers -- with a self-sustaining, established network of local surgeons and health providers that will continue to grow and enhance the quality of care for a population in need on a global scale. 

I congratulate Jennifer Staple-Clark on her extraordinary achievement, her dedication to Unite For Sight, and for the thousands of individuals that have been impacted by her vision.