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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, October to December 2018



Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas
Blackfin supporting the Andrea Bocelli Foundation.
Fiona Bruce as VAO Ambassador makes appeal for better children's eyesight.
Vision Care for Homeless launches rallying call at House of Lords
Crisis at Christmas opticians service – kit needed
Costa Rican charity bike ride for Heart UK
Watson climbs Mount Kilimanjaro
Cardiff Entrepreneur Dan Williams is included in the Disability Power 100 list 2018
Its World Sight Day today!! 11th October 2018
AOP and Fight for Sight ask the public to ‘celebrate their sight’ in new TV advert.
Read the archived Charity news from Qtr 3 2018

Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas

January 2019

Crisis at ChristmasVolunteer opticians from Vision Care for Homeless People saw 327 patients at London’s Crisis clinics this Christmas. Hundreds of pairs of glasses were dispensed to people living on the streets with uncorrected vision which leaves them very vulnerable. Twenty three people were referred to hospital for ophthalmic treatment or further investigations.

Matthew, 28, visited the Vision Care for Homeless People clinic at Paddington Green and was diagnosed as being -15.00 dioptres. He lost his specs two weeks before and described “the world as being for the brave without glasses”.

Frequently subjected to violence, the homeless face barriers to accessing eyecare and many rely on the year-round services of the charity which now has eight regional UK centres.

The goodwill of the optical profession and supply chain ensured that clinics ran across London during the festive week.

Maya Patel, an optometrist from Harrow, volunteering for the third successive year, explained –
“I don’t feel that it is Christmas if I am not here. Our patients make us feel very happy because they appreciate what we do so very much. We were scheduled to run 30 clinics during the week but because of the demand we have run many more.

“Our clinics are equipped with all the latest diagnostic technology – kindly loaned by optical suppliers – and our volunteers have come from all over the UK.”
Bana Garib, the Eye Clinic Service Organiser, said that more than 60 volunteers had turned up to run the service, including a number of ophthalmologists from Moorfields.

“Some of our patients speak movingly about how they have not been treated with so much decency and respect for many years. Alarmingly, we have picked up some pathology which has seen the patients referred to hospital. We have certainly seen a younger demographic this year. Glasses get broken regularly by people sleeping on buses and through street violence.”

The Vision Care for Homeless People Clinics in the UK will have seen nearly 2,000 patients during 2018 and grateful thanks for support goes to: the volunteers and optical supply companies - Alcator, Bondeye, Brulimar, Essilor, Hilton Optical, Kent Optic, Lenstec, Mainline, Mid-Optic, Optoplast, Shamir, Specsavers, Three-Sixty and Topcon.

Picture shows the volunteer team at Paddington Green. Also (left), Maya Patel and (right) Bana Garib.

Blackfin supporting the Andrea Bocelli Foundation.

November 2018

Andrea BocelliSince 2015 the Blackfin eyewear brand has supported the maestro’s foundation to give the most vulnerable members of society a voice and new opportunities

Blackfin, whose top-of-the-range titanium eyewear is designed and produced entirely in Italy, continues its philanthropic work with the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. Every year, since 2015, the company has lent its support to the Foundation to help it achieve its mission, namely to give everyone a chance to express themselves as best they can, creating opportunities for growth and nurturing talent.

Ever since it was created, Blackfin has supported the Voices of Haiti, a choir of sixty talented children aged between 9 and 15 who come from some of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince. Thanks to music, the sixty-strong members of the choir have found a way of escaping violence and poverty, working hard to develop their talent.

They have followed a structured course of study with tenacity and discipline and have achieved a great accomplishment: Voices of Haiti are featured in Maestro Andrea Bocelli’s latest musical project, his new album “Sì”, which was released on 26 October 2018.

“It is a great honour for us to support the Foundation and we are particularly excited to see – and hear – the magic of these youngsters who, under the guidance of Andrea Bocelli, have been given the chance of a new life. It is a message of hope and values, a message which the Maestro spreads throughout the world, testimony of his generosity, something that makes us Italians very proud. This mindset reflects our way of doing business and is the embodiment of our concept of neomadeinitaly” said a Spokeman for Blackfin.

Fiona Bruce as VAO Ambassador makes appeal for better children's eyesight.

November 2018

Fiona Bruce TV star and VAO ambassador
Fiona Bruce, Vision Aid Overseas' Ambassador said, “If a child cannot see clearly, their world and opportunities are limited. I have seen first-hand the incredible work of Vision Aid Overseas and the difference glasses can make to a child’s life and education. Unfortunately, for many children across the world, glasses are simply inaccessible and as a result, they cannot learn effectively in school.

"Girls are particularly vulnerable, as they are more likely to drop out of formal education if poor eyesight means that they underperform in school. By simply enabling the provision of eye tests and glasses in schools, we can help thousands of children to take full advantage of all the opportunities that education can provide and ensure no child is left behind in school.

"Please help Vision Aid Overseas make double the difference this Christmas.”

And there is no better time to donate to this worthy cause as from 27th November to 5th December the VAO pledgers will double the amount you donate .

So hold fire till that date when:

Linda Farrow, Topcon, Pala Eyewear, Jonathan Hall Opticians, The Rotary Club of Worcester, Extech, Retrospecced and many individuals and trusts have pledged to double your donations this Christmas.

Vision Care for Homeless launches rallying call at House of Lords

November 2018

Styles at House of LordsReaching almost half of the UK’s homeless and dispossessed was the rallying call of Vision Care for Homeless People this week. Trustees, volunteers and supporters were welcomed to the House of Lords by independent Peer, Lord Filkin, who is a longstanding patron of the charity.

Marking the 15th year since the service was launched, ambitious plans were announced to increase the number of mobile and static clinics - currently eight - to greatly increase the number of people reached by the charity.

Brighton clinic optometrist, Niamh Harmsworth, inspired those present with the pleasure she receives from her volunteering sessions.

“It is my favourite day of the week. We see the most colourful, eccentric and marginalised people in a familiar, friendly, and relaxed environment. Mainly we see young men, many of whom have had glasses at some stage in their lives. They know they can come for a full eye examination with no payment and no need to give their address or any personal details. By giving them the gift of glasses it improves the quality of their lives enormously,” she said.

Niamh spoke about how enriching volunteering can be, “It is a time to reassess: It is very easy to get bogged down with the minutiae of middle class life, but this gives real perspective. If anyone is interested in volunteering I say - just do it.”

Carol Reece, Head of NHS Optical Commissioning, who attended the event described the Vision Care for Homeless People clinic model as being, “The right provision for the right people. This is something that we want to work closely with and to see how we can support the provision of care.”

Elaine Styles, Chair of the charity, took the opportunity to thank all of the volunteers, “Eye care is as important as any other healthcare, especially for those surviving in a high risk environment. We helped nearly 2,000 people here in the UK last year, but this is not enough. We are looking to open many more clinics, to have a mobile van, and to partner with High Street opticians. We need to work hard to reduce the barriers to accessing healthcare.”

Crisis at Christmas opticians service – kit needed

November 2018

VCHP Crisis at Christmas appeal
Do you have domiciliary eye testing equipment you can lend or give to the Crisis at Christmas Opticians team?

The Crisis at Christmas Opticians Team is gearing up to provide its vital eye test and glasses service. For six days, from 24th to 29th December, sixty volunteers will form 30 mobile optical teams and visit centres across London.

Thanks to opticians who kindly loaned their mobile optometry testing equipment last year, volunteers were able to provide sight tests and glasses for over three hundred people.

We need handheld focimeters, i-care tonometers, Sussex Vision test charts and small cases of trial lenses. All loaned equipment is fully ensured by the charity. I

If you wish to donate any items, they will be used both at Christmas and for our London mobile service throughout the year.

To loan or donate equipment, please contact

Costa Rican charity bike ride for Heart UK

November 2018

Bicester director participating in the big heart bike ride: cycling 360km in Costa Rica to raise money for Heart UK – the cholesterol charity

Bike Charity RideOn the 7th of November, Stuart Baldwin, Director of Associated Optical and 2 members of his team, Nick Hamlet and Ian Hughes will be taking part in the Big Heart Costa Rica Bike Ride. They will be cycling 360 km coast to coast across Costa Rica to raise money for HEART UK. The Big Heart Bike Ride takes place from November 23 until 2 December.

Stuart Baldwin was originally inspired to sign up for the Big Heart Ride to get fit and also to the sudden, unexpected death of a colleague’s friend. I signed up for the Big Heart Bike Ride India in 2014, but due to the birth of my daughter the trip was cancelled. My original motivation to complete the challenge never really left me, so I needed little persuasion to sign up to Cycle Costa Rica when it appeared in my Facebook feed. I chose to raise funds for HEART UK because one of our team members, Nick Hamlet had lost a close friend, Drew Hirst in 2015 at the age of 23. Drew suffered a fatal heart attack. Nick told me about how much HEART UK had supported the family and I wanted to do my bit to help this wonderful charity.”

It was thought that Drew Hirst might have had familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which is an inherited from of high cholesterol, however it wasn’t possible to confirm this. People with FH have exceptionally high levels of cholesterol, often double or sometimes four times higher than that of the general population. FH affects at least one in 250 people in the UK, around 260,000 people: yet the majority around 90% of people are undiagnosed. FH also affects children, around 56,000 in the UK yet the diagnosis of children is even lower than adults: just 600 are diagnosed. There is no national screening programme for FH, so many people with the condition are undiagnosed and untreated, putting them at risk of premature heart attacks and strokes.

Jules Payne, CEO of HEART UK says: “HEART UK is very grateful to all of Drew’s friends and family who have supported us and helped us to raise not only funds, but awareness of FH. The diagnosis of FH is very low, and most people who have FH don’t know it. HEART UK has and will continue to call on the government to implement a national screening programme to help identify people with FH and ensure that they receive treatment to reduce the risk of fatal heart attacks, and strokes,” explains Ms Payne.

Stuart says that he is lucky to have such a committed team of people which has made the training and preparation for the trip very enjoyable. All three of us are goal oriented which has helped greatly with the demanding training regime. “As we are all self-funding, the 2018 bonus plan has been structured to finance the trip to Costa Rica. The guys have worked hard this year to ensure their place on the challenge. This process has been extremely positive for all of us, and we are all very keen to start the challenge.” he adds.

FH and high cholesterol are known as silent killers as too much cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of developing heart and other circulatory diseases. Cholesterol is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. There are two main forms, LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ because too much is unhealthy. HDL is often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ because it is protective. Studies have shown that reducing LDL cholesterol levels can reduce the overall risk of having a heart attack.

Associated Optical’s Just Giving page is here

To find out more about the Big Heart Bike Ride , visit:

Watson climbs Mount Kilimanjaro

October 2018

Dominic Watsons bookOptical business expert and author Dominic Watson is currently climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise £2,000 for two charities and to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Taking part in the 10-day challenge which set off on 19 October, Myers La Roche director Mr Watson wants to tick a huge item off his own bucket list and hopes to encourage others to develop their own bucket list.

The trip, organised by Advocate, is self-funded by Mr Watson, who has set himself a target of raising £2,000 for two causes close to his heart, Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) and Water Aid.

With decades of experience helping practice owners to improve their lifestyle and prepare to exit their business, the Myers La Roche team knows that business can become all-consuming. They have found that practice owners often work too hard and become ill, holding onto their practice for too long and letting their business decline, or finding out that, when they come to sell that the practice, it is nothing without them.

The Kilimanjaro trip is part of their strategy to show practice owners that by becoming more commercial, whilst still retaining their ethical business principals and focus, they can re-engineer their business to work for them. As Mr Watson advocates in his first bestselling book ‘Rockstar Retirement Programme, How to Retire like a Rockstar,’ that business owners can run a business and live a life less ordinary.

The trip comes as Mr Watson is putting the finishing touches to his second book, 'The Rockstar Retirement Bucket List, A Bucket List for the Real World.'

“I want to personally experience another really huge bucket list adventure and really practise what I preach, showing people that absolutely anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” he explained.

“I have chosen Kilimanjaro because I have two young children and my wife wouldn’t allow me to attempt Everest,” he added. “But at a whopping 5,895 metres high, Kilimanjaro is still a pretty big beast and a genuine challenge for me.

“I want to inspire my children, coming back with tales of adventure, travel and the human spirit and I’m hoping that this will give them their own thirst for challenge, exploration and travel.”

Explaining his choice of charities, Mr Watson said: “Supporting Vision Aid Overseas is an obvious choice, having worked in optics for nearly 20 years. It is completely aligned with Myers La Roche and our clients, indeed many of them have volunteered and delivered eye care for VAO in Africa and Asia.

“Water Aid is simply an incredible charity, helping provide some of the world's poorest people with a clean and ready source of fresh water. It is incredible how providing fresh water, something we in the West take for granted, can transform lives and allow people to help themselves.”

Mr Watson will be back in the UK at the end of October. To support his fundraising target, visit here

Cardiff Entrepreneur Dan Williams is included in the Disability Power 100 list 2018

October 2018

Entrepreneur Dan Williams, founder of Cardiff based Visualise Training and Consultancy, was announced as one of the most influential people with a disability in the UK at a reception at the South Bank Centre last Wednesday (17 October).

Disability 100 ListingThe Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List is an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. More than 700 nominations were received for the 100 places.

The Disability Power 100 List is compiled by an independent judging panel, chaired by Kate Nash OBE. Kate is the world's leading authority in 'Networkology' - the science behind the growth of workplace networks and resource groups. In 2007 she was awarded an OBE for services to disabled people. In 2013 she was appointed Ambassador to Disability Rights UK.

Dan grew up in Bath and was educated in mainstream schools before attending the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford. At 22 years old, he launched his business with help from The Prince’s Trust. The company runs training sessions, educating organisations to better assist people with disabilities and has worked with over 700 clients.

Alongside his enabling furry friend Zodiac, Dan uses his experience of gradual sight loss to help organisations become Disability Confident so that inclusion is just ‘business as usual’. The consultancy makes recommendations on what adjustments can be made to support employees with visual impairments as sight loss should not equal job loss.

After identifying a need for improved eyecare referral pathways for patients with low vision, he approached Peter Corbett, CEO of Thomas Pocklington Trust, and embarked on an empowering UK-wide roadshow entitled ‘Seeing Beyond the Eyes’ supported by the charity. It arms opticians with the knowledge to effectively refer patients to services that will improve their lives and independence. He has also produced an innovative resource pack to ensure no one leaves without a referral for support.

Dan said: “I’m delighted to be included in the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List at such an early stage in my career and accept this accolade on behalf of the 2 million people in the UK with sight loss. At the beginning, sight loss feels like the end but later you realise it’s just the start of seeing in a different way and having a new outlook on life. Overcoming my challenges has given me resilience, determination and the ambition needed to be successful.”

In a voluntary capacity Daniel is part of the RNIB Working Age and Transitions steering groups. He is also a Young Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and sits on their Business Launch panels, helping other young people to start their own businesses.

Nick Bell, Interim Chief Executive of Shaw Trust - a charity helping to transform the lives of young people and adults across the UK and internationally, said:
“Congratulations to Dan. The judges were beyond impressed by the standard of nominations but selected the most influential people who are proving that disability or impairment is not a barrier to success. One of our aims for the Disability Power 100 list is to demonstrate to young people that they can achieve their ambitions. At Shaw Trust we work with government, local authorities and employers to support people overcome barriers which hold them back from achieving their potential.”

See some of Beyond Seeings Clinical Briefings here by Visualise Training

Its World Sight Day today!! 11th October 2018

October 2018

World Sight Day sees new easy read resource launched to help change lives for people with learning disabilities

To mark this year’s World Sight Day, SeeAbility, the national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss has launched a new resource designed to help people access easy read eye care information.

This World Sight Day, SeeAbility also welcomes support from NHS England who are working to improve eye care services for people with learning disabilities and will also be sharing crucial information on this important issue through their social media accounts, including a new blog from Scott Watkin BEM.

SeeAbility’s “How to be eye care aware” guides are available for people with learning disabilities, their carers and supporters. All versions are available on SeeAbility’s website at and at exhibition stands at forthcoming events around the country.

Ray James, NHS England National Director Learning Disability said: “The NHS is working closely with SeeAbility, expert clinicians and other agencies to offer free sight tests and make them available within the safe and familiar environment of special schools. We hope sight tests will be available in special schools across England within the next 12 months, providing good eye health services to around 100,000 children helping every child to reach their full potential.”

Lisa Hopkins, SeeAbility’s CEO says: “We support the World Sight Day message of ‘Eye Care Everywhere’ because we champion inclusive communities, where people with learning disabilities and autism have the same rights to good eye care as other people in society.”

This is vitally important for adults and children with learning disabilities as they are far more likely to have serious sight problems than other people. Six in ten adults with learning disabilities need glasses to correct their vision, yet many of them don’t know how to access the right support.

Scott Watkin BEM, Senior Learning Disabilities Advisor at SeeAbility said:
“As an adult with learning disabilities and with personal experience of a serious sight condition myself, I understand first hand the importance of good eye care. People with learning disabilities experience an alarmingly high level of sight problems and yet they are much less likely to get the eye care they need. Our easy read resources are an incredibly empowering source of information and are specially designed to explain the key messages.”

AOP and Fight for Sight ask the public to ‘celebrate their sight’ in new TV advert.

October 2018

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is partnering with eye research charity Fight for Sight to promote the importance of regular sight tests in a new TV advert and public awareness campaign launching 3 October.

Images from FfS and AOP TV campaign
The Celebrate your sight TV advert, which features a voiceover by presenter and author, Konnie Huq, will be promoted on Sky Adsmart across 250 postcode districts and ITV Hub nationally from 5 October in Scotland, and from 12 October in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

Ms Huq said she was delighted to be part of the project: “Being a presenter and author, my eyesight has always been so important to me and I’ve prioritised regular sight tests, not just for good vision, but for my overall eye health. The statistic that there are over a million people in the UK living with avoidable sight loss is shocking. We need to spread the message of the importance regular sight tests for all.”

Vicky Vine, Communications Director at the AOP, says the campaign aims to encourage a shift in public thinking about eye health, moving from a reactive to a pro-active mindset: “The requirement was to create a positive public eye health awareness campaign, and the challenge was to make people actually start thinking more about their eye health. If asked the question, 'which sense would you most fear losing?', people respond overwhelmingly with ‘sight’, and yet people rarely consider their eye health until they perceive that they have a problem, in some cases that can be too late.”

The campaign has been created in partnership with Fight for Sight. Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said “It’s so important that people go for an eye test at least every two years which is why we’re part of this campaign. Our figures show that there are over one million people living with sight loss that could be avoided with the right specialist support. Our recent research with YouGov also found that three in ten people are not getting their eyes tested regularly and that the main reason given is that they think they can see fine. Even if your vision is currently not affected, it’s still really important to get your eyes tested as a test can pick up certain eye conditions at an early stage, allowing you to get the treatment you need. It may also be possible to pick up on early stages of other conditions not directly related to sight.”

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing, Central and Acton, sister of Konnie, also supported the campaign, saying: “I’ve previously campaigned on the importance of regular sight tests for children, so I was very pleased to hear that Konnie is involved in the AOP’s Celebrate your sight campaign. A sight test every two years, or more if your optometrist recommends it, is something we need to really drum home. There’s an opticians practice on almost every High Street and many people have access to NHS-funded sight tests. It would be superb if the message became as ingrained as regular dental checks. In this day and age, no one should be needlessly losing their sight.”


October 2018

#withoutmysightWestGroupe is marking World Sight Day on October 11, with Optometry Giving Sight, and in partnership with the CNIB Foundation (Quebec).

This year WestGroupe is launching its campaign, the #WithoutMySight Challenge along with Champions who are blind and vision impaired to raise awareness and understanding of what life would be like without sight. Coinciding with World Sight Day, an annual day of awareness and action. It is a global call to come together to create a world where everyone can see. It is a great opportunity to raise awareness and transform lives for people around the world.

The World Sight Day Challenge is a way to bring the global community together to help end avoidable blindness and vision impairment to help comprehend what challenges our Champions go through on a daily basis. Together we can make a bigger impact. More than 1.2 billion people around the world who are blind or vision impaired have limited access to an eye exam and a pair of glasses. This includes millions of children whose future depends on vision correction to learn at school.

“WestGroupe is pleased to be partnering with Optometry Giving Sight & CNIB Foundation (Quebec)”, says WestGroupe’s President, Michael Suliteanu. “We are dedicated to a nurturing partnership that will not only promote healthy vision but also hope for a world where universal access to quality vision care services is both affordable and accessible to those in need.”

Take the #WithoutMySight Challenge and support Optometry giving Sight. Join our Champions Hani Mouila, 2nd year engineering student at Ryerson University & member of the Prime Minister of Canada Youth Council, & David Demers, Executive Director of CNIB Foundation (Quebec), in taking the challenge! Both Hani and David overcome barriers everyday as blind and vision impaired individuals. With WestGroupe they are challenging everyone to complete a daily task, or routine for example, making coffee, applying makeup or making a sandwich blindfolded! Participants in the challenge will record a 30-second video of them attempting their chosen task blindfolded, donate to Optometry Giving Sight, nominate 3 people and upload their video to social media tagging @WestGroupe and using the #WithoutMySight Challenge.

Help us raise funds for affordable and accessible eye care for the world’s most vulnerable children! Support Optometry Giving Sight by participating in the challenge.


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