Two members of the optical team at Specsavers in Sutton-in-Ashfield were part of a group that completed more than 1,400 tests and dispensed nearly 3,500 pairs of donated specs during a charity visit to the Ashanti Development in Ghana, including testing the King of Nsuta.
Eyecare for all
From 7 to 17 October, store director and optometrist, Nigel Davidson, and dispensing optician, Lisa Carlin, along with seven other members of Specsavers teams across the midlands, held optical clinics for the locals over six days. The group performed 250 tests daily on average and dispensed unwanted specs donated by customers in Sutton-in-Ashfield, collected throughout the year in store.
In demand eyecare
‘We flew into Accra, then took an internal flight to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. Following an eventful trip by coach and jeep, we arrived at our destination, the small village of Gyetiase in the Ashanti area,’ said Nigel.
‘We held clinics each day for approximately 12 hours to make sure we got through as many people as possible, with some travelling huge distances to access the service.’
Announcements at local churches, markets, a radio station and word of mouth meant that by 3am each morning there was a queue of people waiting for treatment. On arrival, make-shift tents were set up and church pews brought in for people to sit on to wait for their appointment.
‘We completed 1,406 tests in total,’ said Nigel. ‘The team did a fantastic job in making sure every patient left happy. In an area where eye health can have a serious impact on quality of life and even life expectancy, we understood the importance of helping those that had made a long journey from the surrounding rural areas.
‘A pair of spectacles can cost over a year’s wages for the people that we saw, so many are simply unable to access basic eyecare.'
The team overcame difficulties including intense heat, biting insects and poor light as the electricity continuously cut out and often had to test by torchlight. This made it particularly difficult for the dispensing team, which had to identify matching prescriptions from the donated specs.
First time in Ghana
Dispensing optician Lisa added: ‘This was my first visit to Africa and I had an amazing experience, although it was overwhelming at times. We were able to aid hundreds of people in such a short period of time. The looks on their faces as they received their first spectacles was a real sight to see and I am so pleased that we had the opportunity to help.'
Locals from the Gyetiase village have little access to eye care, and this is one of the poorest regions in Ghana. The team found that there was a huge number of patients with glaucoma, as well as other eye conditions including cataracts and pterygium (a condition linked to individuals working in areas subject to high UV radiation), and they worked with a local optometrist to help in the referral of these patients to hospital. They also saw some more unusual cases, such as two patients who had snake bites to the eye.
‘Overall it was a very successful trip, with more people seen than ever before,’ said Nigel. ‘We are continuing to collect specs to send to third world countries at the store, so please call in and put any old or unused glasses in one of the collection boxes.
‘We will be continuing our support of this wonderful development which has such a strong connection with Specsavers. We’ve seen firsthand that the specs go to such a worthy cause.’