Erna Takazawa

Giving the gift of sight

Erna Takazawa will never forget the moment a patient cried tears of happiness in her arms.

As Samoa’s only optometrist, Erna regularly provides free eye care to marginalised communities. She vividly remembers an elderly patient being guided into her clinic legally blind and walking out able to see.

“There was a lady who was guided in by her adult daughter. After hearing how she had never had an eye exam her whole life, I gave her a pair of glasses and immediately her posture changed. She cried and hugged me so tight.

“I have never forgotten that feeling as she walked out of my clinic unassisted for the first time in years. That was one of the defining moments for me where I came to understand the true value of volunteering.”

The University of Auckland alumna particularly loves making a difference for children in rural communities. She describes screening children as one of her “great joys” in her life.

Seeing the children's eyes light up and easing the anxiety of their parents is something I cherish

Erna Takazawa

“Seeing their eyes light up and easing the anxiety of their parents is something I cherish.”

Erna credits her mentors with inspiring her to volunteer. She has a strong desire to pay it forward.

“A number of people have made substantive contributions to my development as a person. If I can make the same impact on even one person, I count myself blessed.”

Erna says that alumni and friends considering volunteering should “just do it”. She has found volunteering to be both fulfilling and rewarding.

“From my years of experience, I have come to learn that volunteering helps you just as much as it helps the people whose lives you touch. It teaches you compassion, empathy, hard work and creativity.

“Don’t overthink it! Just put your hand up and volunteer. It will enrich your soul more than you can imagine and it will enrich the lives of those in your community.”