Key Note Speech given at 2009 VAO AGM
A quarter of a century into the Charity’s history, and members of Vision Aid Overseas gathered in Birmingham for the 2009 AGM last weekend. The Charity is looking forward to the coming year as it begins celebrations for it’s 25th year, and as well as an opportunity to focus on the future, it was a time to reflect on the achievements so far.
It was therefore fitting that the keynote speech was given by someone who has been with the Charity from its conception and it was founding Chairman, Brian Ellis’ words which demonstrated the past, present and future of Vision Aid Overseas.
He began by telling members, at the closing of the meeting, of the very first trip by volunteers in 1984, which led to establishing the charity. Mr Ellis said, “ what struck home to our hearts and minds was the way in which by using our skills as optometrists we had been able to transform the lives of those people so far less well off than we, and so much in need.”
This is still the drive which focus’ Vision Aid Overseas today, as the Charity works across the developing world providing training and outreach services to those who have no access to basic eyecare services. It is the work of the Vision Aid Overseas UK volunteers and the local clinicians in the Charity’s partner countries which can transform the lives of those who suffer disadvantage and poverty simply from the lack of spectacles.
Their work to date has meant over a million patients have been seen by volunteers, which translates to one eye examination for every twelve minutes of every day and night since Vision Aid Overseas was established. An amazing achievement by any standards and Mr Ellis went on to say, “I feel that in this country the great legacy of Vision Aid Overseas will be that it has brought to the attention of our profession the fact that we have skills and an ability to improve people’s lives quickly and quite easily.”
This was why so many members of the Optical profession were in attendance in Birmingham last weekend, as the next set of volunteers, team leaders and trainers embarked on courses to ensure that Vision Aid Overseas’ achievements will continue for the next 25 years. Although the initial Outreach Services founded in 1984 are still as important as ever, by providing training to local clinicians in partner countries and establishing Vision Centres, Vision Aid Overseas is ensuring the sustainability of eyecare services in countries where there was previously neither the expertise nor finance to provide such care.
Mr Ellis stated, “Helping the World to see means we must help teach and train others in the countries we visit so that, in turn they can use their skill to enable their fellow countrymen to see. We must endeavour to ensure self-reliance”. Since Vision Aid Overseas developed these courses they have been recognised by the World Health Organisation, who is implementing a campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. Vision Aid Overseas is a proud member of this campaign Vision 20:20.
Ellis continued “What we do is offer the gift of sight. Allow some children to leave Braille-teaching Blind Schools, and others to enter mainstream education. We permit artisans, teachers and businessmen to continue supporting their families; enable loving grandparents to remain independent and watch their family grow. We need to emphasise more the personal impact that so motivates each of our volunteers. We help the world to see.”
Further information about Vision Aid Overseas