Dr. Schanzer dreamed of being a medical missionary since her childhood days when she first heard a Marynoll priest describe his missionary adventures. Her dreams were first realized in 1988 when she and her husband, Tom traveled to Nigeria. Over the years, Cathy and Tom have also worked in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.
All of their efforts were carried out in existing programs that gratefully accepted Cathy’s surgical skills, Tom’s administrative support and their donated medical/surgical supplies. However, in 2006 this pattern of mission work changed. For the first time in their mission career, Cathy and Tom led the development of a permanent eye care center in a remote village in Sierra Leone named Serabu.
Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu
In late 2005, for several months Tom supervised the renovation of a donated block building, adding water well based water systems, generator electricity, patient examination areas, an optical dispensary and a modern operating theatre, complete with state of the art technology equipment and air conditioning, something virtually unheard of in the Bush but necessary for the high-tech equipment. Serabu was to be a modern eye care and surgical center.
On Cathy’s birthday, January 7, 2006 Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu was dedicated which included a day and night of celebrations.
Today, Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu is open year round, providing diagnostic examinations, medicines, eye glasses and modern eye surgery free of charge to all patients. It is not uncommon for patients to walk several days to reach Serabu for their eye care needs. Upwards of a 100 clinic patients and 30 surgical patients per day is typical when Cathy and Tom are in Serabu. A Staff of 30 full time employees keeps the clinic operational, allows the Clinic operations to include 10 satellite clinics in nearby villages and supports numerous community development projects.
This joint effort of Cathy and Tom with Catholic Mission continues to be a huge success for the needy people of Sierra Leone. Catholic Mission contributed the land and building, while Cathy and Tom provide all the financial support. They established Southern Eye Institute in order to raise financial support for the Clinic.