Dr Ndalela: “A calling, rather than a job”
Ndalela is an ophthalmic clinical officer who travels across Zambia by motorbike, visiting villages and treating communities affected by trachoma that have little or no access to medical services.
Having practised ophthalmology for the past eight years, Ndalela is now head of the eye department at Senanga Health Clinic in western Zambia – and is the only surgeon in the Senanga region who can carry out complicated procedures.
Ndalela is full of character: he’s charismatic, charming and puts everyone he meets at ease. Over the years he’s built relationships with village elders, who are now happy for him to examine and treat those who live in the region.
He’s passionate about his work, he says it’s his “calling, rather than a job”.
For Ndalela, the job isn’t just about treating people with trachoma, it’s about helping his community. “The children who can’t see or get help from anyone else can almost never go to school,” he explains. “They can’t grow up to work or be productive, so they add a burden to the family.
“The impact on the person’s mental wellbeing can be quite severe as well,” he continues. “Often a person who’s lost their sight will become depressed, not understanding why this has had to happen to them, and why they are not able to see the children they can hear playing, or see the faces of their loved ones.”
Ndalela says the gratitude of the people he has helped is a huge part of what keeps him motivated. Sometimes the parents of children whose sight he has saved will bring him food and gifts to say thank you. Once, a mother of a girl he had operated on brought him a chicken. He told her that he didn’t need any payment – he is just happy to help.
In the future, Ndalela hopes to travel to Tanzania to learn how to perform cataract operations, which will enable him to save the sight of even more people.