Sightsavers Reports

“Saving people’s sight isn’t just a job: it’s my calling”

Mr Ndalela stands in his scrubs and smiles broadly at the camera.

Mr Ndalela is a big character. When we first met him at a hospital in Mongu in western Zambia, he told us off for taking notes, rather than listening to him.

That said, he is very charismatic. In all the villages we visited with him, he put everyone at ease straight away and they were all charmed by him.

He had very good relationships with each village’s elders, spending time with them and making them laugh. Without their permission, we would not have been allowed in to examine and treat those who desperately needed it.

A close up of Mr Ndalela examining a young girls eyes.

Mr Ndalela wishes he could do more outreach work

Having been practising ophthalmology for the past eight years, Mr Ndalela now heads the eye department at Senanga Health Clinic, and supports the small ophthalmological surgical team based in Mongu.

He is a classic ‘doctor on a bike’ who travels by motorbike to do outreach work in the poorest, most remote villages that have little or no access to health care. He tries to reach as many people as possible, but a lack of funding and resources means he often can’t get to those who need his help most.

Not being able to reach people in need is Mr Ndalela’s biggest concern. For him, this isn’t just about helping a person to see, it’s about helping his community and his country.

Mr Ndalela examines a grandmother's eyes for signs of trachoma.

Why saving sight in rural areas is so important

Mr Ndalela explained to us why his work is necessary. “The children that can’t see, and can’t get help from anyone else, are the people who can almost never be at school, who can’t work, who can’t be productive,” he said. “You add to the burden of the family, that burden adds to the burden of the district, the burden of the district adds to the burden of the province – the province, the nation, Africa, the whole world.

“However, eye conditions that leave people blind aren’t just a social economic problem,” he continued. “The impact on the person’s mental wellbeing can be quite severe as well. Often the person who loses their sight will become depressed, not understanding why this has happened to them, and why they are not able to see other children playing, or see the faces of their loved ones.”

A mother helps Mr Ndalela hold her baby still so he can examine it's eyes.

It’s gratitude from people that keeps him going

Mr Ndalela told us how the gratitude of the people he has helped is a huge part of what keeps him motivated. Sometimes the parents of the children whose sight he has saved will bring him food and gifts to say thank you, but Mr Ndalela expects nothing in return. He is just happy to be there to help make sure that the children have a brighter future.

It’s because of this desire to change lives that Mr Ndalela was so delighted at the opportunity to travel with us and be able to treat more people through the Sightsavers team. It’s easy to see how much he genuinely loves his work and how much pleasure he gets from helping people to see again.

But what does his future hold? He told us he is hoping to go to Tanzania for further training so he can carry out cataract operations, enabling him to save the sight of even more people.

Mr Ndalela is down on one knee as he examines a queue of young children's eyes.

It’s thanks to the support of people like you that Mr Ndalela is able to treat so many people in remote areas.

Mr Ndalela is down on one knee as he examines a queue of young children's eyes.

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