A local optician is returning to Ethiopia for the sixth time to test the eyes of people unable to afford vision care.
Alex Whitter, who has worked at Specsavers in Wigan and Leigh for over 20 years, will also help train students at Gondar University in the north of the country to become opticians so that the population becomes more self-sufficient.
At the moment, Ethiopia only has three opticians per one million of the population so obtaining glasses for even the basics like reading is extremely difficult. This can mean people having to stop work as they become older purely because they can no longer read and are therefore unable to do their jobs. This can put families under greater financial strain and put more people into poverty without the backup of a welfare state. Equally it can mean a child not getting an education because they cannot see the board in class or their books at home. Therefore they can’t get jobs and remain a burden to the family financially.
Alex said: “It’s very difficult for us to imagine not having easy access to eyecare here in the UK. There is one optician for every 3,500 people here and buying glasses is easy. Now think how difficult it would be if the nearest optician was in Birmingham, you had to rely on very poor public transport to get there, and even if you got an appointment you probably couldn’t afford the glasses anyway.
“This is a reality in a lot of countries and it’s small things like this that stop a country from becoming more developed and less reliant on aid.”
Alex’s team are all volunteers who give up their time and holidays to do these trips and have to fund-raise in order to go.
Each team member has to raise £1,000 in order to cover the cost of flights, accommodation and food. Alex is holding a summer chocolate raffle to raise money, details of which can be found on his fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alex-whitter2
If you would like to donate, he promises if you leave your details, he will enter the correct number of raffle tickets into the draw on your behalf.