Two Blackwood team members travelled half way across the world to take part in the world’s highest altitude 10k race, for a charity that helps treat people without access to eyecare services.

Great Ethiopian Run

James Morris, a principle optometrist at Blackwood, and in-store trainer, Chris Padfield, travelled to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the Great Ethiopian Run, to raise funds for Vision Aid Overseas (VAO).

The charity provides accessible eyecare services for vulnerable children and adults in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

The pair were among a group of 22 Specsavers staff from across the UK who took part in the race. Mr Morris raised £1,395, while Mr Padfield totalled £1,490, thanks to donations from friends, family, colleagues and customers. Together, the 22 Specsavers runners raised more than £58,000.

James and Chris also visited a VAO centre four hours from the city, where they were given a tour of the facilities by a locum optometrist.

Flying the flag for Blackwood

‘It’s not often you get the fly the flag for your town at such a high-profile event,’ says Chris, who was proud to represent Blackwood in the race.

‘It was a challenge to adapt to the environment and I struggled at times, but we were determined to finish it to make our training and fundraising worthwhile.’

James added: ‘Seeing the VAO centres in person put the hard work they do into perspective. For many, health services that we take for granted are a luxury or, at times, not available at all.

‘The heat wasn’t as bad as I had expected but the altitude caught us all off guard – it wasn’t long before I was out of breath. Fortunately there was a party atmosphere, with people singing and dancing in the streets, which spurred us on to finish the race.’

Glasses donation

In addition to financial contributions, Specsavers in Blackwood encourages customers to donate unwanted frames to a recycling collection box in the store, which VAO recycles to raise funds for eye treatment services and centres in Africa.

Specsavers has collected and recycled more than 250,000 glasses for the charity since 2003, raising more than £800,000.

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