MARK Esbester is once again planning to change the lives of people in Africa – by giving them the gift of sight.
For the last seven years the Clanfield optometrist has made regular trips to developing countries with teams from national charity Vision Aid.
Together with his fellow volunteers Mark, who runs Percy Harrison opticians in Elm Grove, Southsea, is collecting unwanted pairs of glasses to help people in Uganda who struggle with even basic tasks because of poor vision.
This will be his 10th trip to provide much-needed sight tests, recycled glasses and training for students who will become the next generation of eye specialists and surgeons.
‘People out there often have no access to any sort of health care facilities,’ he said. ‘So giving them a pair of glasses can literally have a life-changing effect.
‘When I was last in Uganda I saw two brothers who were eight and 14 years old and were extremely short sighted.
‘The look on their faces when we found them the right pairs of spectacles was just amazing to see.’
Mark said that it is estimated around 670m people in the world are unable to live normal lives because of poor vision.
‘In many parts of the world it can completely stop people from living their lives,’ he said.
‘We take it for granted so much in this country, but if you think, by 50 most British people will need glasses for reading.
‘In Africa it is often 10 or 15 years earlier, so not having access to glasses has a massive impact.’
Glasses donated to Vision Aid are sorted in prisons by inmates trained to use special equipment to determine their prescription.
They are then packaged up and sent to Africa, accompanied by Mark and his team, who also work to set up vision centres and provide training.
‘In a way the training is the best thing we do,’ he said. ‘It is good to be able to go out there and help, but it is even better if we can leave people behind who can carry on our work.’
Anyone who wants to donate their old glasses can take them to any of The News’s offices in Hilsea, Lake Road, Gosport, Fareham or Havant.
The glasses must be in reasonably good condition and not too scratched. For more information about donating visit vao.org.uk.