Vision Aid Overseas' Remote Mentoring


Can you volunteer your time to become a VAO mentor to share your optical skills, knowledge and experience?

Do you provide Optometry services in Sierra Leone or Zambia and think you would benefit from the knowledge and experience of a mentor?


About the scheme


VAO’s Remote Mentoring scheme supports eye health professionals in Sierra Leone and Zambia, who may have limited opportunity for continued professional development, by matching them with national or overseas volunteers who can share their optical knowledge and experience through a short-term mentoring partnership. 

All mentoring will take place virtually at a time to suit both Mentee and Mentor.

A mentoring partnership can be rewarding to both the mentor and mentee. VAO’s mentoring partnerships will be short-term (up to 4 months), and will always have purpose allowing the mentees, with their mentor, to set their own goals, including milestones so they can keep track of their progression. It is a partnership with a clear start and end date where a more experienced individual supports the learning and development of a ‘mentee’ in a specified area. There is no limit to the number of times a mentee can request a mentor and mentors can make themselves available at the end of an existing mentoring relationship to mentor someone else or mentor more than one mentee.



Find out more or join the scheme




Q: What is Mentoring?

A: Mentoring is a partnership through which one person shares knowledge, experience, skills and information to another, in a safe, confidential environment to support personal and professional development. Mentoring is usually based on a process of support, questioning, and listening. Remote mentoring has a low carbon footprint.


Q: Who are VAO mentors?

A: Mentors will have first-hand experience of eye health in one of the countries we work in, usually from a previous assignment through VAO’s volunteer programme or having worked in one of our countries. All Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians must be registered to practice.


Q: Who are VAO’s mentees?

A: As this is a new scheme we are currently only inviting eye health professionals from Sierra Leone who are trained in Optometric skills and work in a Ministry of Health hospital or vision Centre. They will mainly be Optometry Technicians who are trained in refraction, dispensing, glazing and workshop skills.  We will soon be inviting mentees who are eye health professionals in Zambia, especially those offering Low Vision services.


Q: What is the benefit of mentoring?

A: The mentoring process allows you to learn from a mentor’s behaviours and experience and ask questions of a mentor who’s already had a similar experience. Having a mentor can help work performance, motivation, engagement and an opportunity to improve your existing skills.

For the mentee: Mentoring provides a safe arena to explore professional development and receive work-based support. The mentor will listen whilst providing an independent view on things, have access to knowledge and experience and will encourage the mentee with their professional development. Mentees typically progress faster in their learning than those without a mentor.


For the mentor: Mentoring is a great opportunity to develop skills in developing others. It gives mentors the opportunity to reflect and review their own experience and offer insight into the learning gained. Supporting mentees often leads to invaluable insights into their own working situation. 


Q: What does it involve?

Both Mentors and mentees create an online profile on our mentoring platform and mentees are matched with possible mentor to select from, to support them for up to four months. Mentors and mentees will be match based on the support requested and the support a mentor feels they can offer. Mentors are asked to select areas of expertise where they can offer meaningful support to their mentee.

We recommend meeting with your mentee, via a virtual method of your choice, on a regular bi-weekly basis at a time that suits both of you. Your first meeting will be used to agree goals, method and how often you meet.

At the end of the four months or sooner if a goal has been reached, you will be asked to close your relationship and supply feedback on your experience so we can further improve the programme.


Q: Is mentoring the same as training?

A: No. Training is an event where skills are taught which are immediately transferred to the workplace. Mentoring is a professional development tool in which a less experienced professional seeks advice, learning and support from a more experienced professional. 

Q: What is a mentor, a mentee and a mentoring partnership/relationship? 


  • A mentor is someone who is willing and has the time, commitment and experience to share their expertise and knowledge. 
  • A mentee is someone who is motivated, has the time and commitment to learn from others to enhance their role and personal development.
  • A mentoring partnership is a relationship between the mentor(s) and mentee(s) which has set milestones and goals, lasting approximately 3 -4 months. Once a mentoring relationship has finished you can request another relationship from another mentor, this is particularly useful to be mentored on a different skill or criteria. VAO would encourage all mentees to work on one particular area at a time and to keep returning to the scheme to cover other areas. 


Q: What makes a good VAO mentor?

A:  A VAO Mentor will have an understanding of global eye health and experience of working in eye health in a low resource setting. A good mentor is an effective communicator, good listener who can generate trust, show empathy and understanding, they must also be willing to share their knowledge and experiences.


Q: When will remote mentoring take place?

A: Mentoring can be done at any time as mutually agreed between the mentor and mentee. VAO’s scheme is remote mentoring so will take place online via Skype, Zoom, What’sApp (or similar). The mentoring relationship can be flexible, one-off, short or longer term (up to 4 months). To get the best from the scheme select a quiet location and prioritise meetings so there are no interruptions.


Q: Who sets the milestones and goals?

A: The mentee sets them with their mentor.


Q: What training and support will I receive?

A: Both Mentors and Mentees will have access to training videos on how to get the most out of mentoring and how to navigate their mentoring relationship. In addition Mentors will undergo some additional online volunteer training. VAO will also provide support through its Programmes Team.


How it works


Find out more or join the scheme