The overall experience was incredible. Throughout this journey, I learned a great deal about myself as well as Optometry.


After listening to the amazing experience about Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) from a work colleague and a previous City University student, I was sure it was definitely something I would love to volunteer in. As I was working part time in care work and having worked in an optometric practice, I felt like I possessed the necessary attributes to contribute towards a successful assignment. Therefore, I wasted no time applying for the chance to be selected for the IAMF bursary. The opportunity to help many individuals, who are less fortunate and have little access to eye care, kept me motivated to pursue one of my goals-to volunteer with VAO.

Our set assignment was in Kafue, which is a small town located around 50km from Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. For the ten working days that we were in Kafue, I had the opportunity to alternate between the clinic at the Kafue General Hospital, as well as go on outreach. On outreach we set up many clinics in the surrounding towns/villages of Kafue. Throughout my time in Zambia, I participated in variety of tasks such as, conducting eye tests alongside qualified optometrists and dispensing patients who had never worn spectacles. I learned enormously about different eye diseases/pathology and was able to broaden my knowledge about ocular conditions that are rarely seen in the UK. The working environments were very different, which I enjoyed as this gave me a unique opportunity to adapt to adverse conditions. All of this has led to a great improvement in my clinical skills, making me well prepared for my final year of studies. I was honoured to have such an amazing, friendly and supportive team.

One memory from the trip that will always stick with me is the initial reaction, of each patient, when they first put on a simple pair of reading glasses- namely those who have been struggling with their vision for many years.

 

The sense of fulfilment once I had dispensed these patients is a feeling like no other. One particular patient, a teacher who had been suspended due to reading issues, came in having no light perception in their left eye- a consequence from a simple operation on their leg, which had gone wrong. I was overjoyed when I was able to dispense him some reading spectacles, meaning he will be able to now return to teaching. I am so grateful for all that I have learnt on this experience and I will always be amazed by how the team and I have saved peoples lives.  

The overall experience was incredible. Throughout this journey, I learned a great deal about myself as well as Optometry. I have gained confidence within myself and have even more ambition to do this again in the future with VAO. One of my aspirations is to become a VAO team leader.

 

  

Finally I would like to say a massive thank you to my amazing, enthusiastic and hardworking team (Mark Esbester, Caroline Clarke, Debika Gurung, Angelina Bhopal, Shameela Rauf and Rejoana Ali) for being along side me throughout this journey. Being under the wing of the team leader (Mark Esbester) and deputy team leader (Caroline Clarke) was a pleasure, right from the get go. As a student, I learned from each and every single individual on the team. I would also like to say a special thank you to David Mwitumwa, Benard Nyirenda and Judith who made us feel very welcome in Zambia and aided us at the hospital and on outreach. A huge thank you goes to all the Vision Aid Overseas staff at home that made our trip a success and to the IAMF for allowing me to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity as a student.

Niraj Vaitha