I am Isatu Mansaray, a Sierra Leonean by nationality, born on the 15th April 1996. This is my story of how I became an Optometric technician.
Well, it all started when I sat my exams at the end of senior secondary school. I obtained a very good result that would allow me to go to University but unfortunately my family could not afford to send me. I tried calling my relatives for help but because we come from a poor background it was not possible. I became a dropout as I could no longer fund my education and so I stayed at home and watched my friends going off to different universities.
Isatu at her family village
But one faithful day a friend of mine from secondary school visited and explained about a scholarship provided by the eyecare charity Vision Aid Overseas. She had heard about it from a friend of the medical superintendent at Makeni Government Hospital and asked if I was interested. I thought about it for a few days and then went with my friend to visit the superintendent to find out more. He explained that the scholarship would cover one year’s training in the Gambia followed by an internship back in Sierra Leone for a further year. He explained that it was all about saving sight and helping people to see again. I immediately thought about my grandfather and my uncle who had gone blind and how I was powerless to help them but now I might have the chance to save other people's sight. I couldn't just let go of this golden opportunity to help and so I applied on the spot and was thankfully accepted.
I prepared my passport and later that year went to the Gambia. It was the first time I had ever flown and travelled out of the country and all thanks to Vision Aid Overseas! My stay in the Gambia was a wonderful experience as I met new people and made new friends. I studied very hard as I was so grateful to have this opportunity and was overjoyed on the day of my graduation. I travelled back to Sierra Leone with my qualification as an Optometric technician and completed my internship year in September 2018.
I am now based at Makeni hospital where I carry out eye examinations to help people who may need spectacles to help them see. I am fully trained to then make up the spectacles and to fit them correctly.
I love my job very much, it feels so great when you refract a patient, issue him or her with their first glasses and see that smile as they thank you for saving their sight.
I really love the relationship between myself and the patients, the confidence, the trust they have in me to help them see as well as possible. I remember one time a patient with very poor vision, who could not even see the top letter of the eye chart, after my refraction was able to read the bottom line and he excitedly said "Wow, is this really how other people are seeing!" He went on to explain that ever since he was a little boy he had always seen that way and had presumed everyone else saw the same. He was overjoyed the day I gave him his glasses and just kept thanking me and blessing me. I feel so great that I have a job that can help people in that way and that makes such a difference to people's lives.
Another part of my job is to go on outreach projects to the rural communities surrounding Makeni. This may involve school screening or basing ourselves at a local health clinic to assist the local population with any eyecare problems they may be having.
I give all the praise to God Almighty and my sincere thanks and appreciation to Vision Aid Overseas, who have made me who I am today.