Francis Mendy and Charlotte Barnett at Benenden Hospital with just some of the many glasses
benenden hospital and benenden health have collected more than 3,000 pairs of second hand spectacles for people in the West African country of The Gambia.
The project was run in conjunction with a UK registered charity called BACE, Building and Assisting Communities with Education, which runs a health clinic in The Gambia and a school, both in an impoverished village called Bonsa.
The glasses were given to two representatives from the charity this week – trustee Charlotte Barnett and business development manager Francis Mendy, who lives and works in The Gambia.
BACE trustee Charlotte Barnett inspects a batch of glasses
The glasses are now being packed into a shipping container, which was sponsored by benenden hospital and which leaves the UK at the end of January. It will take several weeks to reach The Gambia and will be unpacked by a team of BACE volunteers in March. At this time the charity’s chair, Tracy Barnett, will present the second hand glasses to The Gambia’s National Eye Health Programme.
The glasses will then be given to people who might otherwise struggle to afford a pair of spectacles and would probably simply go without, making every day tasks such as working, cooking, reading and earning a living, extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Glasses were collected at benenden hospital, in Cranbrook, Kent, at the benenden health offices in York, at shops, cafes and businesses in Kent and York and at 10 benenden approved hospitals across the UK.
Chair of BACE, Tracy Barnett, said: “Myself and all the trustees would like to say a massive thank you to benenden for collecting so many glasses. The support has just been staggering from so many people. Without the support from benenden this campaign would not have been possible for the charity.
“We will be presenting the glasses to the programme manager at the National Eye Health programme in The Gambia at the beginning of March, where they will be utilised to help to support so many people in the poorest rural communities in this country.
“The collection of glasses was a temporary one off campaign for the charity as their primary aim for the next 24 months is to focus on the sustainability of their newly built and opened primary health clinic, which will support in the region of 20,000 people living in one of the poorest areas of The Gambia.”
BACE business development manager Francis Mendy collects donated glasses
Three opticians tested and labelled the glasses before they were handed over. They were Joanne Burgesss, from Wilson Wilson and Hancock in Tenterden, Kent, Eimer Hammond from the Hammond Optical Practice in Cranbrook, Kent and Amanda Bahadur from the Focus Medical Eye Centre in Hailsham, Sussex.
Jane Barlow, benenden hospital’s PR Executive who co-ordinated the appeal, said: “Thank you to everyone who donated their old spectacles – we didn’t expect to collect just so many! Also thank you to all the businesses and benenden approved hospitals who supported our campaign and in particular thanks to the three opticians who undertook the painstaking work of testing and labelling each pair, which must have taken many hours.”