Optical sector steps up to help Ukrainian refugees

Polish members of the European Council of Optometry and Optics are offering free eye care to people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine

Ukrainian flag
Pixabay/Oleg Mityukhin

The European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) has outlined efforts by Polish optometrists to serve the eye care needs of Ukrainian refugees.

An update sent to ECOO members earlier this week highlighted that Polish eye care professionals have launched a coordinated effort to help people crossing the border from Ukraine.

A map is available online, identifying practices offering free sight tests, spectacles and contact lenses. There are also graphics that optical practices can print out in Polish and Ukrainian outlining the free eye care offer for refugees.

ECOO President, Cindy Tromans, shared with OT: "Our heart goes out to the people of Ukraine at this truly terrible time. Any action we as individuals or professionals can take to help those who have had to leave their homes and their country, to make their lives more manageable is important."

Meanwhile, in the UK, London optometrist, Robert Longhurst, has contacted the Ukrainian Embassy offering free eye care to those escaping the unrest in Ukraine. He has received many offers of support from optometrists and optical suppliers within the UK.

Speaking with OT, Longhurst shared that the idea of offering free eye care to Ukrainian refugees came about after watching media coverage of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

“People are drawn to becoming optometrists because they want to help people. That is certainly why I enjoy my job so much. We have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves in times of need,” Longhurst emphasised.

He noted that refugees will often have left their homes in a hurry and may have lost or broken spectacles during their journey.

“One assumes that if you are going to be claiming asylum there will be paperwork to fill out, so you need to be able to see… I wondered if I could do something to help those people,” Longhurst said.

Longhurst only provides eye examinations as an optometrist and does not supply frames or contact lenses within his own practice.

After he posted on social media about the idea of providing free eye care to refugees, he received many offers of optical supplies from those working in the sector.

“I have had so many companies contact me to say that they will do what they can. It’s amazing to see what people can do when they come together for such an important cause,” Longhurst said.

Longhurst and his family have previously volunteered by driving supplies to Afghan refugees staying in hotels.

Asked about his motivation for offering assistance, Longhurst shared: “I don’t think it matters what the conflict is or what the reason is for someone having to leave their home – we have a duty to help anyone who is in need. We’re all human.”

Those interested in donating services or supplies can contact Longhurst by email.

Meanwhile, Louis Stone has donated £1500 worth of personal protective equipment, including face masks, nitrile gloves, antiseptic wipes and hand gel, to a charity on the border between Ukraine and Poland.

Directors and staff within the company are also donating warm clothing and toiletries to people affected by the crisis.