Charity of the Year

See Belfast has been awarded Charity of the Year 2017

Winner: See Belfast

Since its establishment in September 2015, See Belfast has been providing optometric services and spectacles to homeless people across Greater Belfast.

Providing services in an environment where people feel comfortable and are treated with dignity and respect, See Belfast’s aim is to reduce visual impairment within the Greater Belfast community, and, in turn, to help improve people’s quality of life, explains the charity’s co-founder, Paul Wright.

The inspiration for establishing the service came from seeing adverts regarding Vision Care for Homeless People, who Mr Wright says, provided “invaluable support” to them when they were setting up See Belfast.

Sharing the key goals of the charity, Mr Wright says: “At present they are to continue with the provision of one evening clinic a week, with a view to expand at some point in the future; to increase awareness of the charity amongst homeless people, in order to extend the reach of our service; to continue to improve and update testing room equipment; and to further develop partnerships with allied organisations and individuals to improve service delivery.”

See Belfast celebrated the one year anniversary of its first clinic in September last year, at which point it had seen a total 158 patients, approximately half of which required spectacles. Providing insight into the demographic of people they treat, which includes patients from 18 countries globally, Mr Wright says: “Our patients are a mixture of asylum seekers and local homeless people. Many of them are not easily able or willing to access mainstream optometric services.”

In order to be able to offer these services, the charity hosts a range of fund- and awareness-raising events, which include coffee mornings, open nights and fun runs.

Mr Wright believes the charity is heading in the right direction, he says: “See Belfast is a young charity and at this early stage in our existence, having a fully- equipped, well-attended optometric clinic has been our greatest success.”

Runners up

Finalist: SeeAbility

SeeAbility enriches the lives of people with sight loss and multiple disabilities across the UK through service provisions and research.

Along with providing a wide range of personalised services, the charity is carrying out groundbreaking research into sight testing for children in special schools in England, with the aim of transforming eye care for children with learning disabilities.

Finalist: Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP)

Established in 2003 to provide eye care and spectacles to homeless people, VCHP has expanded to six clinics across the UK.

The charity is now driving further growth to meet its goal of building a branch network in all cities where homeless people are in need. As a result, it is working with volunteers in Exeter, Liverpool and Leeds.