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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, January to March 2018



Sensing Nature and the Big Blind Walk
Winners of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund announced.
Big Blind Walk is set to raise £350,000 for International Research.
New 3 year grant offered by spectacle makers’ charity.
Crisis centres dispenses more than ever.

Sensing Nature and the Big Blind Walk

February 2018

Sensing Nature

“Sensing Nature” is a two-year research project, led by Dr Sarah Bell at the University of Exeter and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, examining how people with varying forms and severities of sight impairment experience a sense of wellbeing (or conversely discomfort/disability) in diverse types of nature during the life course.

The overall aim of the project is to improve the way we understand, enable and promote more positive, inclusive multisensory nature experiences amongst adults with sight impairments, regardless of their life stage (see: for more details).

Sensing Nature is excited to be joining Julian Jackson, of VisionBridge, at the outset of his Big Blind Walk in Cornwall. Starting on Sunday 29th April 2018, Julian will be hiking over 1000 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, to John O’Groats in Scotland.

Through this epic seven-week adventure, Julian aims to raise awareness of eye health, eye research and the rich, varied and multi-sensory ways in which people can connect to nature to experience a sense of wellbeing, whether fully sighted or otherwise.

In 2010, Julian took on the challenge of tandem cycling this well-known route. This time, he will be negotiating the varied terrains on foot, exploring the shifting environments and listening out for different wildlife as he travels.

Julian is inviting everyone - from members of the public, to patient support groups and health care professionals – to raise money for eye research and join him, be it as guides or fellow walkers. He will be visiting eye clinics, eye hospitals and community centres along the way, sharing experiences and promoting the achievements of, and future opportunities for, eye health research.

If you would like to accompany Julian, fundraise or raise awareness of this adventure, visit the Big Blind Walk website and take a look at the route. You can also hear more via a recent interview with Julian on BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Touch’ programme.

Opportunities to connect to nature with our non-visual senses are emerging as particularly important within the Sensing Nature study, and we’re really excited to be supporting Julian with this fantastic initiative.

Opchat News published by Primary Health Net are proud to be media partners of the Big Blind Walk. Read about it here

Winners of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund announced.

February 2018

The two bursary winners of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) which supports students to work with Vision Aid overseas have been announced.

Winners Aitchison Awards

Huma Batha, 20, from City University and Asad Javed, 21, from the University of Bradford have been picked and will be heading off to Africa next summer for two weeks.

(Pictured Left-Right – Asad Javed, Huma Batha)

The two bursary winners of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) which supports students to work with Vision Aid overseas have been announced.

Huma Batha, 20, from City University and Asad Javed, 21, from the University of Bradford have been picked and will be heading off to Africa next summer for two weeks.

They will be supported by Vision Aid Overseas to provide training to local eye care workers, to establish Vision Centres where patients can access eye care services and to support outreach services in rural communities.

Both students were in London for interviews on Wednesday 6 December 2017 and will head off on their assignment to Africa in summer 2018. The exact location has not been chosen yet, however for the last two years it has been in Zambia.

Huma Batha said, “I’m thrilled to have been selected for this bursary. The opportunity to take my skills to a country that urgently needs them is thrilling and a privilege.”

Asad Javed added, “With so many people in developing countries needing support with protecting their eyesight, I cannot think of a better way to give something back than spending some time working with them.”

The volunteers are crucial to Vision Aid Overseas and help them to achieve their mission to fight poverty by transforming access to eye care and affordable glasses in Africa.

For more information on Vison Aid Overseas visit

Big Blind Walk is set to raise £350,000 for International Research.

January 2017

Julian Jackson
Julian Jackson, (pictured at 100% Optical, one of his major sponsors, became totally blind in 2010 having been told as a young child that he had Retinitis Pigmentosa and would be blind one day.

His life with that threat hanging over him and his eventual blindness has created the determined man he is today.

To convey the message to others on how people with threatening vision loss could be so much better treated by professionals, optometrists, ophthalmologists and the social services has become his life passion.

After his first senseless visit to a faith healer as a child after the diagnosis and of course the many further visits to optometrists and ophthalmologists as his condition reduced his peripheral vision and night blindness set in and became a problem in his international travels as an events organiser at no point did he receive any help or direction as to who or what organisation could assist him to cope with the development of his disease.

This is not uncommon and neither the medical, primary care or social services seem clued up on what help is available.

Julian became totally blind over a period of three weeks in 2010. Through his own efforts he has located services like Orcam the “visual to verbal” system that allows him to read books, menus and participate in the world.

As he says, “very little news about the successes of international research or appliances in dealing with blinding disease is ever published. There is a tremendous effort from gene therapy research, Argus II implants and an array of useful devices being developed and still much else in the pipeline. We need to raise money to assist in the development of new research and raise the level of understanding and commitment of those in a position in primary care to offer advice and get involved.”

His sponsors Second Sight and 100% Optical are assisting him in his “Big Blind Walk” and the money raised will be shared between his charity, Vision Bridge and the National Eye Research Centre who will be receiving 70% of all money raised.

Vision Bridge will use its share to raise the understanding of vision loss and promote the continuation of early research that needs greater pump priming to move it forward.

“There are some great success stories out there with over 300 ocular implants in the world, two of the recipients of which will be on the Big Blind Walk with me", said Julian when we met him at 100% Optical..

You can find out more in an interview by Peter White on Radio 4 tomorrow evening (Wednesday 31/01) and the walk will be trailed by a Countryfile Edition on BBC1 on April 13th before it commences at Land's End on 29th April on its way to John O’Groats taking 7 weeks to complete 1000 miles.

Julian informs us that there will be some very important public faces joining him along the way, but we are sworn to secrecy.

Your Opchat News has been requested to join Vision Bridge as co-media partners for the lead up to and throughout the walk. We will provide links to his site and track his progress along the way and keep you updated as the walk progresses.

We will provide a Vision Bridge Big Blind Walk page linking to his own site and his sponsors and simple links to help you and your customers and patients support his efforts.

We will do the same on PHN's public pages at

Big Blind Walk logo

New 3 year grant offered by spectacle makers’ charity.

January 2018

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers’ Charity (registered in England, no 1072172) has announced that, for the first time, it will be offering organisations involved with eye health and/or sight loss the opportunity to apply for a substantial three-year grant.

Natalie BriggsThe three-year commitment will give security of funding for significant projects and allow the benefit of new initiatives to be measured over a longer period.

Applications for the grant must reflect the aims of the Charity, which are to:

• reduce vision impairment both within the UK and elsewhere

• support the development of eye health training and education internationally

• improve the quality of life of people who have already lost sight

• support certain research projects within vision science, through grants to organisations with established peer review processes for assessment and monitoring of specific projects

Applicants will need to show that their work will have national or international benefit and that the funds will go directly to helping those with vision impairment.

The Charity, under its new Chairman, Dr Natalie Briggs,(pictured right) has a target of increasing its funds to £1 million by 2029. The Charity has a 22-year record of making small but significant awards to charitable organisations in the UK and overseas. This will continue, alongside one new three-year grant per year.

The Master of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, Felicity Harding, said, “This commitment is a new venture for the Spectacle Makers’ Charity and one that I am delighted to support. I hope it will provide a real incentive to organisations to undertake projects that will have a lasting impact.”

The application form and further details about the process can be found here

Crisis centres dispenses more than ever.

January 2018

Opchat Magazine Charity Page
The Vision Care for Homeless People team, working in conjunction with Crisis at Christmas, had a busy festive season with some 312 people having their eyes examined at the various clinics throughout the capital.

York-based Consultant ophthalmologist Jan van der Hoek, who each year comes to London with his wife to volunteer at the clinics, said 32 people had been referred to Moorfields or the Western Eye Hospital for further investigation and treatment of chronic conditions presenting, but one patient needed immediate attention.

“One chap came in with a retinal tear and a bleed to the eye.  He needed laser treatment which we organised and he was treated immediately. He was able to stay at the Crisis centre for the week, so that he could recover. There were also some glaucoma patients, some of whom had already lost some of their vision so they should now be in the system for treatment,” said Jan.

Ready readers were the answer for 75 patients but another 241 are now having specs produced to their prescription by Essilor. 

CrisisPowers ranged from a shocking -12.00D to +10.25D.

The worthy team of volunteer optometrists and dispensing opticians were only able to complete their rewarding work due to the generosity of the Outside Clinic which had loaned domiciliary kits to the charity. 

Grateful thanks also go to Essilor which provided not just the lenses but also free glazing for this very worthwhile initiative.

Picture shows left to right: Ophthalmologist Varo Kirthi, optometrist Meera Nagii, City University Optometry student Aaron Uraon, Chair of VCHP and Moorfields optometrist Elaine Styles, and Bana Amin the Crisis at Christmas opticians service organiser

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