MARK Esbester couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the hundreds of pairs of spectacles donated by News readers to his appeal.
The Clanfield optometrist has been collecting second-hand glasses, which can have a life-changing effect for people in Africa.
And when his appeal – on behalf of national charity Vision Aid – was reported in January people from across the area more than rose to the challenge.
Rummaging through cupboards, drawers and lofts, readers filled black bin bags and cardboard boxes with spectacles of every shape, size and colour imaginable.
Before long, The News offices in Havant, Fareham, Gosport, Hilsea and the city centre were running out of space to store the mountains of glasses.
‘We’ve never had a response like this,’ said Mark. ‘I’m glad I brought a car with a big boot.
‘I’m so grateful to everybody who went to the trouble of digging out their old glasses.
‘In this country we can hardly comprehend the difference it makes to people in Africa who can’t see.
‘Our used spectacles suddenly become unspeakably valuable.’
Together with his fellow volunteers, Mark, who runs Percy Harrison opticians in Elm Grove, Southsea, is holding the collection to help people in Ethiopia who struggle with even basic tasks because of poor vision.
In April, he will make his 10th trip to provide much-needed sight tests and train up students who will become the next generation of eye specialists and surgeons.
‘These glasses will now go to Clanfield to be carefully sorted into different prescriptions,’ he said.
‘This is actually done by prisoners as part of a work programme, so there is another benefit to the community.
‘Then they will be packaged and flown out to help people in Africa.
‘Even ones which are too scratched to use won’t go to waste. The frames are often made of valuable metals which can be melted down and sold.
‘Last year, we received thousands of pounds from the frames alone, which all goes into funding the work we do.’
Mark added that it is estimated around 670 million people in the world are unable to live normal lives because of poor vision.
For more information about donating visit vao.org.uk.