Becoming a better volunteer, making your efforts more meaningful
For the first 18 years of my optometry career I regularly volunteered with my local VOSH chapter both locally and internationally. I felt good about my efforts, but my efforts were myopic. As I joined the VOSH/International Board I became aware of the bigger picture, there was much more involved than just an eye exam and providing a pair of glasses to an individual in need. The bigger picture includes many organizations involved in efforts to raise awareness of and generate support for the need for eyecare and access to eyecare as a human right. There are several efforts going on, but there is still a great need to develop and support optometry globally, develop human resources in eyecare, advocate for understanding the need for eye care and access to eyecare.
Things you can do to make your volunteerism more effective:
- Understand local community you will be working in
- What is the need?
- How can you really provide help?
- Work with local eyecare
- Enhance local capacity
- Skills transfer between optometrist and student optometrist from visiting team and from local eyecare team
- Provide equipment to local optometry
- For local vision screenings
- Mobile eye clinics
- Education and Prevention to local people about their eyes
- Sun protection, control of diabetes
- Public awareness
- Collect Data on patients served
- This is used for advocacy for access to care
A good way to gain more understanding is to become a Fellow of VOSH/International or a Student Fellow of VOSH/International. The Fellowship program is designed to encourage the acquisition of knowledge, skills and experience necessary to meet the global challenge of eliminating preventable blindness. The fellowship process will help you to understand the global status of optometry and global challenges for accessing eyecare. It will help you to understand cultural considerations, philosophical constructs underlying volunteer, charity, and humanitarian programs. You can read more about it here:
Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI