London, October 13 2010 – Four eye care volunteers journey to Syria to help those whose lives have been blighted by poor eye sight.
Optical Express employees Amy McLaughlin, Jill Young, Jaymeet Patel and Scott Mackie travelled from the UK to Western Asia to help treat patients as part of Dr. Morhaf and the Red Crescent’s (Syrian Red Cross) eye camp. This mission highlights the Optical Express Group’s commitment to improving eye care in impoverished areas across the globe and marks a continuation of the group’s long-standing charity partnerships, which includes: The Caring City, a charity which delivers support to children in crisis, in a practical and direct way.
Armed with 2,500 pairs of glasses and 3,000 pairs of lenses, which had been donated by Optical Express, the quartet were faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. 30%(1) of the Syrian population currently live in poverty, working long hours in tough industries such as agriculture – which employs 26%(2) of the country’s labour force. Eye care is simply not an option for a population who struggle to support their families and look after their children because of their declining eyesight.
“The cases were heartbreaking,” said Jill Young, Senior Optometry Development Manager: “I have never seen so many blind children with no provision for primary eye care. People were begging us to be seen.”
The Optical Express team travelled to the regions of Salamiyya, Hama and Alghab treating patients ranging from children with Cerebral Palsy to adults who would be diagnosed as blind in the UK. Over 40% of patients suffered from diabetes and even more from conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment.
Six days, three locations and 3,500 patients later, the four volunteers emerged with a varying range of emotions and case studies of patients who benefited from this support effort from Optical Express and Dr. Morhaf’s camp. The experience opened the teams’ eyes to the vast challenges and lack of eye care that exists within Syria and all four insist that there is an urgent need for more trips like this.
“Everyone involved valued us being there,” added Professional Services Director Scott. “We got to be part of this life-changing experience, giving us the opportunity to treat patients in Syria. This is just the start and I can’t wait to see how we might be able to help further in future.”
For Optical Express this is certainly just the beginning. So far they have donated over 500,000 pairs of their customers’ old glasses to The Caring City and will continue to support the cause. Special drop boxes are located in Optical Express clinics nationwide, which have so far been popular for those who have benefited from laser eye surgery. So pop into your local Optical Express today and donate your old frames, as the difference good eyesight can make is immeasurable.
- Syrian Population: 21M+(3)
- 59% of Syrian Population under 65 and 36% under 15(3)
- Syrian Unemployment: 12.9%(1)
- Syrian Poverty Levels: 30% (11.2% live below the subsistence level(1)
- Syrian Agricultural labour force makes up 26%(2) of population and accounts for 25% GDP(4)
- (1) US Department of State
- (2) The Report: Syria 2009 (Oxford Business Group)
- (3) CIA Fact book
- (4) World Bank, World Development Indicators