Vision is a precious thing. It is listed by many as the sense that they would least like to lose. And as we prepare for the Christmas holidays, I am reminded that, sometimes, it is the gifts that cost nothing that can mean the most.
As clinicians, you'll be aware that one of the most common forms of blindness globally is uncorrected refracted error – the silver-lining being correction is possible with access to the correct eye care and spectacles. However, for many it's not as simple as a quick trip to the optometrist – and I'm not just referring to those living in countries such as those served by Vision Aid Overseas, for example, where access to eye care is scarce. The problem can be seen much closer to home.
When I first joined OT, one of the first people I met was an optometrist called Harinder Paul. Mr Paul observed homelessness in the community where he lived and witnessed how being in this situation led to the loss of some care models, including sight tests. Wit the support of colleagues, he decided to do something about it and established Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) – a charity that provides free sight tests and spectacles to homeless people.
Today the charity runs six clinics across the UK and last year tested the sight of hundreds of homeless people, providing spectacles if required.
Commuting via a mainline London train station five days a week, it has not escaped my attention in recent months that the number of people sleeping on the streets and under the arches surrounding the station has grown.
As Christmas approaches, VCHP is preparing for another busy Crisis at Christmas service, where it maintains a base in Crisis’ Skylight centre in Aldgate, London, joining other professionals offering their services, such as dental care, hairdressing, and much more.
VCHP volunteers will also visit various Crisis shelters across the Capital as part of mobile sight testing teams to make sure that as many people receive free eye care as possible.
As a non-clinician, providing this much-needed service is not something that I can do. Yet, there are many ways to reach out and help those in need this Christmas – from volunteering at a local shelter to offering someone a cup of tea or a sandwich – I’ve learnt first-hand how this seemingly small gesture can mean quite a lot.
Do you have a few spare hours in your day to give something back this year?
Image credit: Vision Care for Homeless People