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Optometry students volunteer

Undergraduates travel to Zambia to take part in a VAO project

VAO Student volunteers

A pair of optometry students have travelled to Kafue in Zambia as volunteers on a Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) project.

Second year undergraduates Niraj Vaitha and Rejoana Ali volunteered alongside qualified optometrists and dispensing opticians having been awarded the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) bursary last year.

The IAMF annually provides two bursaries for second year students on optometry or dispensing optics courses in the UK to enable them to volunteer on a VAO overseas assignment.

During the two weeks, the students worked at the eye clinic in Kafue General Hospital and helped to deliver outreach services to surrounding towns and villages where access to basic eye care is limited.

Reflecting on the trip, Ms Ali, who is an undergraduate at the University of Bradford, said: “It was only the first day when I realised the importance of the work of VAO, as I was able to see the vast limitations of the access to eye care and the difference we could make.”

Ms Vaitha from City, University of London, added: “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 spectacles to these patients is a feeling like no other.”

VAO has been working in Zambia since 1999 to support the delivery of affordable eye care in the country.