Optician Pritti Patel working in Ethiopia for Vision Aid Overseas.
AN OPTICIAN from the Isle of Wight has helped hundreds of people in Africa to see properly for the first time.
Volunteer Pritti Patel has just returned from a two-week trip to Ethiopia, organised by the Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) charity, where she has been carrying out eye examinations and dispensing glasses to people with no access to quality eyecare.
Working with staff and students from Hawassa University, she and six colleagues visited rural health centres to dispense glasses donated by people in the UK. They treated between 150 and 300 people every day.
Pritti, a self-employed optician primarily based at Specsavers, Newport, said: "There aren’t many opticians in the region and the few there are tend to work in the big cities, so most people can’t afford to travel for treatment.
"The reaction from people we treat can be mixed. When people who are very shortsighted, or even partially sighted, are given glasses for the first time it can be quite scary for them, because they have never seen properly before.
"However, the need for reading glasses is the most common problem.
"Most people start to become longsighted when they are about 35, and if they have glasses it means they can continue to work and support their families. Reading glasses are something we take for granted but in Africa it can be life changing.
"We ask for a small donation in return for the glasses, which encourages people to care for them. I would really encourage people in the UK to donate their old or unwanted glasses to Specsavers, because it makes such a difference."
Pritti, who lives in Newport and recently raised £500 for VAO with a sponsored cycle ride around the Island, is a long-standing supporter of the charity and has previously volunteered in Uganda and Zimbabwe.
She said: "I wanted to use my skills to help those who are most in need and VAO is such a worthwhile charity."