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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, April to June 2019



Sight loss charities launch online advice hub
Composer dedicates piano piece to VCHP
Visionbridge and BigBlindWalk publish their bi-annual Report 2019 entitled “Eye Research – an equal partner”
BBC Radio 4 appeal set to raise profile of VCHP
Dealing with Sight Loss and continued Employment.
Practitioners urged to hug this tree-planting campaign
The Royal School for the Blind, now known as SeeAbility, celbrates its 220th Birthday
Dad-of-two set for grueling charity challenges, raising money for CHECT
RNIB appoints Matt Stringer as Chief Executive reminds us of practical advice on dealing with those affected by Autism.
Team building challenges set to raise funds for homeless
RNIB launches inclusive and accessible Ben Nevis trek
Read archived charity news from January to March here

Sight loss charities launch online advice hub

June 2019

Working in partnership, sight loss charities Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Guide Dogs, Visionary, VICTA, Fight for Sight and Vision UK have launched a new online advice hub which pulls content from across the sector.

Visitors to the Sight Advice FAQ portal can type their questions into the search box or use the menu to find information or advice on: living with sight loss, eye health, or being newly diagnosed with a sight condition.

The charities hope that this will become a ‘go-to’ source of information for anyone living with sight loss.

Review here full story

Composer dedicates piano piece to VCHP

June 2019

Awet HabtezionVision Care for Homeless People volunteer, Awet Habtezion, has dedicated her new piano composition, HOPE, to the charity and hopes those listening to it on youtube will donate to the charity’s appeal.

The trainee accountant is a keen volunteer clinic assistant at the Aldgate clinic in London, and was so moved by what she has seen that she decided to dedicate the piece.

Listen to it here

Awet commented –

“I like to use my music to create awareness about the important work we do for those in need, in terms of care and support. At VCHP I have met people that once had a decent job but unemployment, relationship break up and addiction leads to homelessness and vulnerable people find it difficult to walk into traditional stores for sight tests.

“Hope is what vulnerable people need to find their way out of the darkness, and along with the work of opticians and clinic managers, volunteers and fundraisers, we can make a difference.”

Visionbridge and BigBlindWalk publish their bi-annual Report 2019 entitled “Eye Research – an equal partner”

June 2019

The report features contributions from leading academic researchers, clinicians and technology providers from the UK and abroad.

Updated in June 2019, this Report aims to drive eye health up the public health agenda, raise awareness of the tremendous legacy and potential of eye research but also highlight the challenges facing eye research including the critical need for greater investment. It points to the vital link between laboratory work and positive clinical outcomes and not only makes the case for eye research as a major stakeholder and key influencer in the provision of quality eye care, but also justifies the position of eye research as an equal partner in delivering an improved quality of life for the visually impaired alongside the provision of key services such as; accessible transport, disability benefits, rehabilitation and social support.

The Report appears at a time when our eyes remain under increasing attack from a wide range of viral, fungal and bacterial infections as well as neurodegenerative, systemic, auto-immune and inherited diseases. Other factors such as injury and trauma, lifestyle choices, environment, mutant genes and ageing also play their part in sight loss. Against this backdrop, the opportunities to make a significant difference to people’s lives have never been greater. This is a critical time when the eye research community in the UK can harness the revolution in biological sciences, engineering and computing amongst other disciplines to prevent and cure the causes of vision loss.

Contributors to this Report repeatedly make the point that eye research continues to deliver improvements in the areas of prediction, detection, diagnosis and prognosis, treatments, testing/measuring/monitoring and rehabilitation. The knock on effects of these improvements will be to reduce pressures in secondary care and widen capacity in primary care, educate up practitioners and their patients, promote individual responsibility and self-care, accommodate the harder-to-reach communities including those with dementia in the process of detection and intervention, act as a bulwark against increasing depression, restore mobility and social connectivity, facilitate entry into education and employment, encourage greater patient input into the delivery of eye care and above all stand as an equal partner alongside all stakeholders in eye care in delivering “appropriate treatment in the appropriate place and at the appropriate time”.

"The report sponsored by Second Sight will be of great interest and value to Academics, clinicians, practitioners, patients and public who are invited to share" said Julian Jackson, founder and CEO of Vision Bridge.

You can read the report here.

BBC Radio 4 appeal set to raise profile of VCHP

May 2019

John Hegley BBC
Comic, poet and musician, John Hegley, has given voice to Vision Care for Homeless People with a Radio 4 appeal to be broadcast on 16 June.

The Sunday appeal – repeated a few days later – is set to reach nearly two million listeners, who will be asked to make donations to fund the charity’s work throughout the UK.

John, who has worn glasses since the age of 11, is a keen specs wearer and member of a band called the Popticians, who regularly talk about wearing specs, accompanied by the gentle tones of his Cavaquinho, a Portuguese mandolin.

He called into the Aldgate Vision Care for Homeless People clinic and was impressed with what he found, particularly the compassion and professionalism of the volunteers –

“It was such a warm, welcoming environment and these clinics are making a real difference to people’s lives.”
The Radio 4 Appeal is set to help keep the centres going in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Leeds and Exeter. The charity is also expanding its network of clinics to other cities where the service is needed.

The broadcast will take place on Sunday 16 June at 7.54am, repeated at 21.26pm that evening and again on Thursday 20 June at 15.27pm. Pop it in your diary now.

Dealing with Sight Loss and continued Employment.

May 2019

What do you do if one of your employees is losing their sight? Lose them and all the skills, knowledge, experience and relationships they have built up?

A new information pack for employers - being launched in Glasgow today [Wednesday, May 29th] by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Scottish Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills - says sight loss can be less of a problem in the workplace than you might think.

The 'Let's Work Together' pack [LINK to video- ] points to blind and partially sighted people currently working as secretaries, nurses, journalists and teachers in Scotland.

"It makes good business sense to retain a good worker," said Martin O'Kane of sight loss charity RNIB. "Keeping your employee can mean that your business will continue to benefit from everything they have brought to their role."

RNIB, in partnership with Marriott Hotels Glasgow, has produced the resource pack, supported and funded by the Scottish Government and Impact Funding Partners. The pack, available in print and online, was originally developed with workers aged 50 and over in mind, but it can apply to all ages.

"With advances in accessible technology, and financial support from the Government’s Access to Work scheme, it can be easier and less costly to support an employee with sight loss than you think," said Mr O'Kane. "There are a wide range of products available to assist people in their work, including software that changes the way a computer screen looks, or a video magnifier which can make it easier to see printed documents more clearly."

There are around 9,000 registered blind and partially sighted people of working age in Scotland.

"While each person’s experience of sight loss will be different, there are no hard and fast rules about how to support blind and partially sighted people in the workplace," said Mr O'Kane. "By giving some useful information and shared experiences, we can help you work with your blind or partially sighted colleague."

"Blindness isn’t an illness and there is evidence to show that disabled employees take less than average sick leave, scoring high in loyalty, reliability, and hard work. We also have an ageing workforce, so it is likely that more and more people in employment will experience some degree of sight loss during their working lives."

Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn said: "It is extremely important that employers give disabled people the opportunity to enter the workforce and employers should take every step necessary to retain and develop staff with disabilities. The ‘Let’s Work Together’ resource pack will be invaluable in retaining workers, who are experiencing sight loss, in the workforce."

Claire Fisher, assistant director of human resources for the Marriott said: "The ‘Let’s Work Together’ pack is an invaluable resource for employers to create inclusive environments that support the retention and advancement of all employees and in developing a diverse workforce. At Marriott, we believe in taking care of people and putting their wellbeing above all else and we were delighted to work in partnership with RNIB in developing the pack."

The Equality Act 2010 states that an employer must make 'reasonable adjustments' to help staff overcome any disadvantage that result from their disability. Most blind and partially sighted people are likely to be considered protected under the Act.

Case Study

Mel's story:

Mel works for social housing provider the Riverside Group in their Irvine office. She had some sight loss before she started this job but it didn't impact on her work. In October last year, however, Mel was given devastating news – her sight loss was permanent and there was little that could be done to help. On the bus on her way home she got in touch with sight loss charity RNIB.

RNIB demonstrated equipment and software to Mel that she might find helpful in work. She was taught to make better use of keyboard shortcuts rather than tricky use of the mouse. RNIB supported her in her application to the Access to Work scheme and met with her and her manager Duane in their workplace to discuss the supports they could consider to get Mel back at work. Mel now has magnifier software, better and bigger monitors, larger letter keyboard, large key calculator and a portable digital magnifier.

Mel and Duane worked with RNIB to trial the 'Let's Work Together' job retention pack. Duane had experience in managing people but had never had an employee experiencing sight loss before. He valued the support he had from RNIB and was able to use the retention pack to make sure he was doing all he could to help Mel and keep her in work.

Duane said: "Having this pack has been fantastic and has shown me what I needed to do. I believe every company should have this information so they can support their staff in the best way possible."

Mel said: "I've been so fortunate with the help and support I've had from RNIB, not just about work but with emotional support, too. Over the last few months, I've met some great people who have shown me that sight loss doesn't have to mean my working life finishes."

Practitioners urged to hug this tree-planting campaign

May 2019

Hug Trees at Glasklar
Positive Impact is building on its green mission with a charity campaign for Glasklar which starts on World Environmental Day. A tree will be planted for every order made for the spectacles lens cleaner, starting on the campaign day, 5 June and running until the end of the year.

The main focus for this year’s World Environmental Day is Beat Plastic Pollution which ties in with Glasklar’s #RefillNotLandfill message of reusing the lens cleaner bottles rather than wasting plastic. The awareness day is held every year on 5 June, with 143 countries taking part to support the initiative.

The trees will be planted by the Earth Day Network in support of The Canopy Project, which is aiming to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on earth, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.

The trees are being planted across the world, including the UK to highlight that over 15 billion trees on earth are lost each year.

“At Positive Impact, we try to be as environmentally-friendly as possible and are always looking at how we can do more,” explained Positive Impact’s digital marketing coordinator, Ellie Jarman, pictured.

“We also love to run charity campaigns, so this global scheme really inspired us. We know that patients return to the practice to refill their Glasklar bottles and this gives practitioners another reason to encourage them to do so.

“We hope practices will really get behind this campaign and support us. Having more trees is good for all the people and animals on earth, as well as the environment.”

The Royal School for the Blind, now known as SeeAbility, celebrates its 220th Birthday

May 2019

John Major and Mark CarneyUK charity SeeAbility challenges society to rethink disability as it celebrates 220th birthday with The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney

High-profile supporters gather at Bank of England event to launch a year-long campaign celebrating the story of one of the UK’s oldest charities and all those it has helped

SeeAbility, a charity providing specialised support and shaping policy to help people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, was recently joined by its Vice President Sir John Major, and Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, to celebrate its 220th birthday at the Bank of England.

Founded in 1799 and formerly The Royal School for the Blind, SeeAbility’s remit has broadened over the years. Now, the charity will focus on realising its vision of a society coming “together for inclusion”, in which everyone can participate as equal and valued citizens – in the workplace, in education, and in everyday life.

In a world increasingly characterised by social division and uncertainty, SeeAbility’s ambition to create truly inclusive communities is more important than ever
• 1.4 million people are currently living with learning disabilities in the UK

• 65% of people with learning disabilities say they want to work – but in some areas of the UK, as few as 6% have a paid job

• Up to 50% of people with learning disabilities experience chronic loneliness

• Children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other children[2]

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said: “It isn’t enough to reflect diversity; we also need to choose inclusion. That means embracing difference and promoting an environment that brings cognitive differences to the fore. I’m delighted to be hosting this event for SeeAbility who, like the Bank of England, are committed to creating a culture where everyone can maximise their potential”.

John MajorSir John Major stated: “We need to shine a light on people’s abilities and create partnerships to deliver equal participation. In a society increasingly characterised by social division and uncertainty, this is our ambition for inclusivity”.

Speaking after the Bank of England event, Lisa Hopkins, CEO of SeeAbility, commented: “Over the last 220 years, SeeAbility has witnessed some incredible personal stories of triumph. We’ve seen ambition in the place of defeat and confidence emerge where it once never existed. As we celebrate these successes, it’s only right that we set our sights on achieving even more ambitious futures for people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss.”

SeeAbility cannot achieve this ambition alone. The charity needs commitment from partners to create opportunities for the people it supports, it needs new allies to champion inclusion in their own businesses, networks, and communities, and it needs funds to enable continued support for people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss to achieve their goals.

Dad-of-two set for grueling charity challenges, raising money for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust

May 2019

CHECT support from Tim InnessResident and optical expert is fundraising for child cancer charity

CHECT County Durham resident, Tim Inness, is digging deep for two bucket-list challenges in a bid to raise vital funds for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) as World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week 2019 (12th-18th May) is in full swing.

Tim, aged 33, is set to take on the Yorkshire Three Peak challenge on the 25th May, which he aims to complete in under 12 hours. The mission will see him cover 26 miles across Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent, whilst carrying a 15kg rucksack.

And if that wasn’t enough, Tim will then take on the “main event” – a grueling 24km march over Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons – to raise funds for CHECT. Taking place on 29th June, the walk is known as the ‘Fan Dance’ and is used for SAS selection. The challenge is infamous for not only being a test of physical ability but also mental strength, which Tim is aiming to complete in under six hours.

As a store manager for Vision Express in Stockton-on-Tees, Tim has seen the work of CHECT through the optical retailer’s charity partnership. CHECT is a charity dedicated to helping people affected by retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer usually found in babies and children under six. Tim said: “I didn’t know about CHECT before I started working at Vision Express. The partnership is so important because the two organisations working together helps to raise more awareness. Also, it is vital as CHECT isn’t government funded and relies on donations.”

Gearing up for the fundraising feats, Tim said: “I have two daughters, aged three and seven months, and working for Vision Express for the last eight years has highlighted what CHECT can provide, not just for the child but the whole family. It is comforting to know that if Rb did affect either of my girls, CHECT is there to help and support.”

With training underway and going well, Tim said: “I chose the Fan Dance to really push my limits and test myself. There’s a part of the march called 'Jacob’s Ladder', which is the final climb before heading down to the finish. You arrive there around 13 miles in and you have to climb 2,000 steps. It’s the final push and a true mental test, so I hope all the training that has been done prior kicks in.”

CHECT Chief Executive, Patrick Tonks said: “We are so grateful for the work Vision Express has done to raise awareness and invaluable funds for the charity throughout our eight-year partnership and a massive thank you to Tim for going out of his way to fundraise for us. We really wouldn’t be able to help so many children and families without the support of people like Tim.

“Retinoblastoma currently has a 98% survival rate; however, the treatment process can be very challenging – about half of the children have an eye removed to stop the cancer from spreading, which has long term implications for them and their families.

“Retinoblastoma can be very difficult to detect because children often seem perfectly well, and many parents and healthcare professionals have never heard of it. This week is World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week and we are urging all parents to be aware of the symptoms – a glow in the eye and a squint being the most reported – and to have their child checked out if they have any concerns at all.”

To support Tim’s fundraising, visit:

To find out more about CHECT, visit here:

RNIB appoints Matt Stringer as Chief Executive

May 2019

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has appointed Matt Stringer as Chief Executive, succeeding Eliot Lyne who was interim Chief Executive.

Matt brings experience from leadership roles at Marks and Spencer, Mothercare and Carphone Warehouse.

FODO Director and RNIB Trustee and Treasurer, Alan Tinger said:

"Matt's leadership experience with major customer-facing organisations speaks for itself and RNIB Trustees, senior management and staff are all very much looking forward to working with him to build on Eliot's sterling transformational legacy." reminds us of practical advice on dealing with those affected by Autism.

May 2019

In the wake of Autism Awareness Month [April} Wondermoms have reached out to PHN for some help.

As we all do our part to engage and educate others about our loved ones, our association wanted to pass along some additional Autism resources for our readers. Wondermoms say they are a great way to increase understanding and acceptance.

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognised day taking place on 2 April every year.

PHN thinks this valuable information for primary care professionals to interact and adapt when working with those affected by Autism should be retained for reference in our clinical briefing pages.

Team building challenges set to raise funds for homeless

April 2019

VCHP MuddersBungee jumping, tough mudders, 10k runs, sportives and endurance cycles are great ways to build optical teams and Vision Care for Homeless People is urging every business to get involved this summer.

“Encouraging work mates and pushing your boundaries bring a great sense of camaraderie and pulling together. We are encouraging all optical businesses to explore this idea. Through sponsorship the adventures can be a great awareness and fund raiser for the charity,” said Elaine Styles, Chair of Vision Care for Homeless People.

Elaine, a keen cyclist, has raised thousands of pounds for VCHP through some of the toughest cycles in Europe – the 920 trek from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and the Trans Pyrenean Raid which covers the 20 cols from Biarritz to Perpignan.

“I love cycling and the thought that I was raising money for Vision Care for Homeless People really spurred me on through some of the long days and big hills. Not everyone has to aim for this – a 5km run could be a great achievement for many, or tackling something which is out of the normal comfort zone,” said Elaine.

She is hoping optical businesses will aim to get teams together to compete in some of the events shown on the charity’s website

RNIB launches inclusive and accessible Ben Nevis trek

April 2019

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is inviting people of all ages and abilities to take part in an inclusive and accessible trek up Britain's highest mountain this summer.

On Saturday 10 August, Team RNIB participants will be climbing 1,345m to reach the summit of Ben Nevis in north-west Scotland. Through sponsorship the aim is to raise money for the UK's leading sight loss charity.

Developed to be suitable for people of all ages, levels of fitness and sight conditions, the trek will have blind and partially sighted people taking part alongside a friend or family member acting as a guide, as well as other sighted trekkers. There are a limited number of free places for guides, and sighted participants will be encouraged to support those with sight loss.

Alex McDowell, head of public fundraising at RNIB, said: “Join us in conquering the highest mountain in the British Isles and revel in the spectacular sights, sounds and smells of the Scottish Highlands. Our trek along the rocky trail to the summit of this ancient volcano will be challenging, but your sense of achievement at the top will be incredible.

“The ascent and descent will take between six and ten hours and participants will be encouraged to walk at their own pace. A training plan will be provided on sign up to help people prepare for the adventure ahead.

“This is not a race, this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and raise money to support RNIB's work breaking down the barriers facing people with sight loss in Scotland and across the UK.”

The registration fee for the Ben Nevis trek is £75 with a fundraising target of £550.

The cost of the trip includes two nights’ hotel accommodation in Fort William, breakfast, lunch and celebration dinner on the Saturday, breakfast on the Sunday, transport from the hotel to the base of Ben Nevis and qualified mountain leaders and first aiders.

In addition to Ben Nevis, RNIB is also organising treks exploring the Jurassic Coast (29 June) and the South Downs (6 July).

To find out more and sign up, visit


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