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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, October to December 2020



Oar-some challenge for optometrist!
New VI Charity Sector Partnership
Vision Care for Homeless People’s appeal #Giveback 20:20 Vision
Specsavers Harrogate joins forces with Vision Care for Homeless People
SeeAbility partners with Essilor, Vision for Life to run Eye Care Champions programme
Vision Care for Homeless re-opens clinics
2020 Bursary Scheme goes live provided by the Spectacle Maker's Charity
The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers launches a new Charity
Read Charity News from July to September 2020

Oar-some challenge for optometrist!

December 2020

Talaska Whisky Atlantic Challenge This time next year Martin Skehan will have swapped his test room for the Atlantic Ocean as he takes on the world’s toughest row, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Whisky Atlantic Challenge, in a boat with his visually impaired friend Stuart and two other rowers.

Martin (59), an optometrist at Specsavers in Wellington, Somerset will attempt a gruelling 3,000 mile rowing race as part of a team of four, named the Wrekin Rowers. As well as testing eyes, 2021 will be a year of hard training and fundraising to raise £100,000 for two charities: Severn Hospice and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Although always a keen rower, having won a bronze-medal for Concept 2 indoor rowing, this will be the first time that Martin will have taken on a challenge so epic – which will see him and his three friends battle the elements for around 45 days of round the clock rowing. They will set off from the Canary Isles in December 2021, then row across the second-largest ocean in the world and land in the West Indies the following February.

Martin will be joined by Stuart Shepherd (56) and brothers Stuart (51) and Gary Richards (54) who are all members of the Shropshire Adventure Rowing Club (SARC).

‘The challenge is two-fold really,’ comments Martin. ‘Firstly, there’s the race, a journey of the unknown which will undoubtedly demand not only our utmost physical fitness but mental attitude too. Then there’s our pledge to raise £100,000 for the two charities, both of which are very close to our hearts.

Martin's late wife Becky passed away in 2010 and he says that exercise and fitness has been a restorative journey for which engendered a love for having a goal and a challenge. "Rowing, initially indoor and more lately outdoor and maritime rowing has been a focus for my exercise and has brought me into a friendship group of like-minded individuals who I am proud to join as a team. We all live within sight of a famed local landmark, the Wrekin Hill in Shropshire and are proud to be known as the 'Wrekin Rowers' looking to take on the biggest challenge of our lives, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2021, rowing as a foursome across the Atlantic.'

‘As a team, each of us has been touched in some way by the hospice – which does such fantastic work around our local area and beyond. While the RNIB is particularly relevant to me, as an optometrist, but also to Stuart Richards as he’s registered as sight impaired. Over the years he’s had tremendous support from the charity and is keen to give something back.’

Talaska Whisky Atlantic Challenge
Martin and the rest of the crew have a huge challenge ahead of them, battling 20ft high waves, seasickness and blisters, but he sounds undaunted: 'What more of a challenge could you want and particularly in these times, when the opportunity presents grab it!'

Lizzi Wagner, RNIB’s Senior Challenge Events Manager, adds, ‘Martin and the team are absolute superstars and we’re very proud and grateful to have them aboard Team RNIB. This is an extraordinary challenge and the money they raise will help fund vital services to support people with sight loss across the UK.

‘It’s especially exciting that one of the crew members, Stuart Richards, who is partially sighted himself, is helping to show that with the right support there should be no limits or barriers to what people with sight loss can achieve.

‘A huge thank you to the Wrekin Rowers from everyone at RNIB.’

The team have already begun training for the race, which starts on 12 December 2021, with indoor rowing sessions during lockdown restrictions and river and lake rows when allowed. In the spring of next year their boat will move to the Welsh coast to allow for sea training.

The Wrekin Rowers have bought the boat, called the Noah SARC, themselves and self-funded the trip, so any money they do raise will go directly to their chosen charities.

Anyone who would like to donate to the fundraiser can text the word Atlantic to 70520 to donate £10 or Atlantic5 to donate £5. Alternatively, people can go to to donate online.

New VI Charity Sector Partnership

December 2020

Blind Veterans UK, Glaucoma UK, Guide Dogs, Macular Society, Retina UK, RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary have announced they will form a new VI Charity Sector Partnership.

The aim of the partnership is to provide strategic overview for the planning and implementation of initiatives in the charity sector that will lead to improving the lives of blind and partially sighted people and those at risk of sight loss across the UK.

The partnerships says "The coronavirus crisis has resulted in new and significant challenges for blind and partially sighted people and those at risk of sight loss.

However, it has made everyone more aware of how much we depend on each other - a sense of social cohesiveness that we should celebrate and build on.

Therefore, we are delighted to announce that eight of the leading charities in the eye health and sight loss sector have come together for the first time and agreed to form a VI Charity Sector Partnership. The
founding partners are: Blind Veterans UK, Glaucoma UK, Guide Dogs,Macular Society, Retina UK, RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary.

The aim of this partnership is to provide strategic overview for the planning and implementation of initiatives in the charity sector that will lead to improving the lives of blind and partially sighted people and those
at risk of sight loss across the UK. This partnership will build on the legacy of Vision UK which sadly closed in July 2020.

Partners have agreed to focus on two key themes initially:

• Crisis response planning including a focus on mental health and

• Lived experience leadership and talent development.

Workstreams are in development to address these important issues and will include working with partners across the eye health and sight loss sector and beyond.

This partnership will build on the legacy of Vision UK, which sadly closed in July 2020 as a result of the funding crisis following the coronavirus outbreak.

The outgoing trustees of Vision UK asked Thomas Pocklington Trust to produce a brief report on the impact of Vision UK over the years and the future work it has inspired.

Vision Care for Homeless People’s appeal #Giveback 20:20 Vision

December 2020

VCHP #Givingback Is £20.20 worth the gift of sight?

Giving Tuesday is tomorrow: let’s make a huge difference to the dispossessed here on our streets by helping them to better eyesight….

VCHP #giveback 20:20Poor eyesight compounds the many challenges of homelessness. For most of 2020 the people we expected to help missed out on getting the eye care they need because of the pandemic.

It has been difficult for everyone, and like others we have struggled to raise money via fundraising events. This appeal for 20:20 Vision will help us keep our clinics running in 2021.

Our Patron, actor Ben Miles, is encouraging support for the appeal.

Find out how you can help as a clinic volunteer, by making a regular donation, or through fundraising.

Campaign appeal link:
Photo by Steven Wright on Unsplash

Specsavers Harrogate joins forces with Vision Care for Homeless People

November 2020

Kamila Krawzcyk Trainee Dispensing Optician The team from Specsavers in Harrogate donated their time recently to the charity Vision Care for Homeless People by volunteering at the St George’s Crypt clinic in Leeds to provide essential eye care. They also provided the clinic with much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) from face visors, gloves and aprons to antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers.

Vision Care for Homeless People provide eye care services and glasses to the homeless and other vulnerable people in an accessible and friendly environment. To continue this vital work during the pandemic, the charity was in desperate need of PPE and experienced volunteers.

Robert May, optical partner at Specsavers in Harrogate, says: ‘We know what an incredibly difficult year it has been for our local communities due to the effects of the virus.

‘We have witnessed first-hand the hardships faced by people, particularly local people who are homeless and vulnerable, so we feel very strongly about doing our bit to support them.’

The team has vowed to continue its support for Vision Care for Homeless People throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Specsavers research showed that a third of people in the UK noticed a deterioration in their eyesight and others in their hearing during the first lockdown [1].

[1] Specsavers customer panel survey of 1,618 respondents,1 June 2020. 32% of people have noticed a deterioration in their eyesight during lockdown. Specsavers customer panel of 482 respondents, 1 June 2020. 6% of over-65s experienced difficulties in their hearing when having phonecalls during lockdown.

Headline page shows Caroline Clarke

SeeAbility partners with Essilor, Vision for Life to run Eye Care Champions programme

November 2020

A Pioneering scheme to support the eye care needs of people with learning disabilities:

An exciting collaboration between Vision for Life, Essilor’s Social Impact Fund and UK charity SeeAbility, plans to directly reach thousands of people with learning disabilities through a pioneering scheme which will ensure they finally have the right information and support they need to get their eyes tested and vision corrected.

As part of SeeAbility’s Every Day in Focus programme, Vision for Life’s funding will help support seven Eye Care Champions – many of whom are people with lived experience of disability – in London and the North West of England, See later in story more about Vision for Life.

Globally, people with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to have a serious sight problem than the general population, but far less likely to access a sight test and the eye care they need. With the Covid-19 pandemic having highlighted the countless inequalities faced on a daily basis by people with learning disabilities, this innovative eye care programme is needed more than ever.

Frédéric Corbasson, Executive Director Vision for Life said: “Good vision is a basic human right because seeing well is essential for our everyday wellbeing and quality of life. It enables us to learn, work, and fully interact with the world around us.

At Vision For Life, our goal is to support sustainable vision care infrastructure and programmes, and so we are committed to partnering with organisations and funding programs who bring vision care to the communities most in need.

SeeAbility’s Every Day in Focus project is a unique and much needed eye care programme which supports some of the most vulnerable people in communities across the UK.”

Laura Christie, Head of Eye Care at SeeAbility said: “When people with learning disabilities and autism can see well they are able to live a full, active and more connected life. There are over a million adults with learning disabilities in the UK and one in ten has a serious sight problem. Our research suggests that as many as half may not have had a recent sight test. This funding from Vision for Life will go a long way towards helping SeeAbility achieve our ambition of eliminating avoidable sight loss in this underserved community.”

Lisa Hopkins, Chief Executive of SeeAbility said: “It’s important to us at SeeAbility that we amplify the voice of people with disabilities, as they are best placed to work alongside other people with disabilities about what’s right for them. This programme of Eye Care Champions enables us to do just that and ensures that people take care of their eyes, which ultimately enables them to live their best life.”

Grace, one of SeeAbility’s Eye Care Champions who has a learning disability and sight problem herself, said: “I feel really passionate that having a learning disability doesn’t mean you should miss out on eye care. As an Eye Care Champion I talk to local learning disability groups to build up their confidence about what sight tests involve, and change attitudes towards eye care. This is my first job and has filled me with confidence - I never dreamt that I would be standing up at conferences where I share my experiences of the reasonable adjustments that can be made in optical practices and eye clinics. I’m proud to be part of a programme which is transforming inclusion for people with learning disabilities in their communities.”

Vision for Life, Essilor's social impact fund, was created in 2015 to support sustainable vision care infrastructure and programs, focusing on the 2.7 billion people in the world living with uncorrected poor vision.

It is the world's largest strategic giving program dedicated to eliminating uncorrected refractive error.

Vision For Life™ supports projects that improve eye care provision for people in need of vision correction. Initiatives supported to date range from large-scale awareness campaigns, free vision screenings, increasing access to basic visual health solutions and distributing corrective and protective glasses free of cost.

Vision Care for Homeless re-opens clinics

October 2020

Peter Reeve Essential eye care for the UK’s most vulnerable people has started again thanks to Vision Care for Homeless People’s tremendous supporters. Full PPE has been generously donated by Essilor and protocols established to protect both patients and clinicians.

Financial backing from STEPPER EYEWEAR UK has made a significant difference to the charity, enabling one of the London clinics to open and with other regional clinics due to resume very soon in Birmingham and Leeds.

Peter Reeve, Managing Director of STEPPER EYEWEAR UK, explained the company’s support: “During a period of being told to ‘stay home’, those of us with comfortable homes realised more than ever how fortunate we are. The basic need for a safe personal space has never seemed more important, highlighting the division between those who have, and those who do not have a home. More than ever, we are thinking about the things that really matter to us."

“While busy pursuing our commercial goals it is also empowering to support an organisation that assists those whom we can help directly. As an international brand we are keen to support relevant good causes wherever they may be around the world.”

Daljit Bhandari the optometrist who has opened the first post-lockdown clinic for VCHP at the Broadway centre in London, said: “We have completed the first four weeks of clinics and I have seen patients with many challenges. One was +6.50 and struggling with another person’s ready readers; another chap had been without specs for three years but was significantly short-sighted. I have seen patients with cataracts and another with glaucoma and we have been able to make referrals to Moorfields."

“It is very rewarding to help these patients – many have mental health problems and plenty have had good jobs in the past and now found themselves homeless.”

Vision Care for Homeless People is looking for volunteers – particularly in Brighton… if you have some spare time please email

2020 Bursary Scheme goes live provided by the Spectacle Maker's Charity

October 2020

The Spectacle Makers’ Charity has launched its 2020 bursary scheme for first-year optical students.

The scheme offers bursary awards of up to £1,000 for first year students registered on UK courses in dispensing, optometry and orthoptics, optical technician and assistant training programmes at Level 4 and above, and ophthalmic nursing students.

This is a competitive and time-limited scheme. Applications must be received by 5pm on Friday 18 December 2020 using the online form here

Liz Shilling, Chair of The Spectacle Makers’ Charity, said:

“In the last 4 years, Spectacle Makers’ award schemes have helped more than 75 young people take their first steps in a wide variety of eye health careers. It is a testament to their dedication that 10 out of 14 award winners who graduated earlier this year achieved first-class degrees.

This year, teaching methods have had to adapt rapidly in the face of very challenging circumstances. We know there are students who will really benefit from a little extra support. We’ll be looking forward to hearing their stories and following their progress.

The Spectacle Makers’ Charity aims to inspire future generations committed to visionary eyecare, building upon the rich heritage of our founders, The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers.”

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers launches a new Charity

October 2020

WCSM Spectacle Charity
The oldest optical organisation in the world has launched a new charity this week, to coincide with World Sight Day.

The new Spectacle Makers’ Charity combines two previous grant giving trusts - one promoting support for optical education and the other for organisations helping vision impaired people get the most out of life.

These trusts have previously given over £70,000 a year in charitable support, benefiting students of dispensing, optometry and orthoptics, trainee ophthalmologists and charities working across the United Kingdom and abroad.

Bringing the two elements together will allow the Charity to be more efficient and impactful in its giving and set a clear direction for ongoing support from members of the Company and other donors who have so generously given in the past.

Newly appointed Chairman of The Spectacle Makers’ Charity, Liz Shilling said: “This is a very exciting development. Our new Charity looks forward to supporting all aspects of optical education and enhancing the lives of vision impaired people and their families. In this pandemic year there are extra challenges, both for vision charities and their recipients and for young people starting their careers in eye health. The Spectacle Makers’ Charity will play its part in helping them, as part of our ongoing mission to support better vision for all”.


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