Specsavers colleagues have provided vital support to nearly 2,000 people living in the slums and on the streets of Kolkata in India. The team volunteered at The Hope Foundation Eye Clinic, visited local slums and orphanages, and toured the city on the mobile health bus, where they provided basic eye health care to those living on the streets. During the week-long volunteering trip, the team of opticians visited nine different locations and gave eye checks to over 1,700 patients, dispensed over 1,200 glasses, and in more severe cases, referred patients to the eye hospital for surgery. In addition to this, over 160 cataracts were detected through the checks and treated at the eye hospital.
Although what was provided can almost be seen as routine eye care, many of those who were treated by Specsavers colleagues had never had access to these services before. According to Dr Samran, CEO of the Hope Hospital, at least 90% of cases of blindness could have been avoided if the patient received eye care treatment in time, highlighting the importance of the visit. Among the nine Specsavers staff volunteers that participated in the trip, were Specsavers Clondalkin, Liffey Valley and Maynooth store director Lisa Walsh and Specsavers Liffey Valley and Maynooth ophthalmic director Patrick Dennehy.
Following her visit, store director Lisa Walsh said: ‘I am so grateful that we got the opportunity to visit Kolkata with The Hope Foundation following two years of no travel due to Covid. ‘What’s really wonderful about The Hope Foundation is that they are working alongside the street communities in Kolkata, and they are changing the lives of everyone in this community. It was a privilege to be there to help them on their journey and to see the benefit of our supports to the hundreds of people we treated. ‘I’d like to take a moment to thank all of those who helped make the journey possible – you have all contributed to giving something special – the gift of sight.’
Speaking of his trip to Kolkata, ophthalmic director Patrick Dennehy says: ‘I am so thankful to everyone across the Clondalkin, Liffey Valley and Maynooth Specsavers stores who have helped support this well-deserving charity. From my colleagues in Specsavers to the customers who have supported, I am grateful for the continued support and generosity for The Hope Foundation. Their fundraising efforts allowed us to provide much-needed care across Kolkata communities.’
At the end of their week-long volunteering trip, Specsavers presented a cheque of €115,000 to founder of The Hope Foundation, Maureen Forrest. This significant donation will play a vital role in sustaining the eye care clinic in Kolkata. During the past year, Specsavers teams across Ireland have been participating in fundraising activities ahead of the trip. Such fundraisers included Lisa Walsh and Edwina McKinney who took on the Camino De Santiago back in October, raising over €3,500. Specsavers Clondalkin, Maynooth and Liffey Valley stores joined efforts to fundraise for The Hope Foundation. Throughout 2022, rather than charging customers for spectacle repairs, the three stores asked for a donation to The Hope Foundation in return. In addition to spectacle repairs, in-store bake sales and further fundraising efforts raised a further €7,000.
Maureen Forrest, founder of the Hope Foundation explains that this program ‘is the difference between life and death to people who can’t feed their families’. She continues: ‘Vision is everything to people and for us to be able to support them in their vision journey is a great privilege.’
In addition to the staff from Specsavers, four optometry students from Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), Abby Gorman, Oisin Casey, Omima Mukassabi, and Izzy Healy, along with their lecturer Dr. Catriona Barrett, travelled to Kolkata. Specsavers has an academic partnership with TU Dublin, providing expert mentorship and support to students of optometry. The partnership is to help students develop the necessary skillsets required to excel in a professional environment and in their academic studies, so Specsavers were thrilled to be able to bring some students from the course to Kolkata to help with their mission.
The Hope Foundation Ireland is a registered Irish charity working with street and slum children in Kolkata. The charity works to free children and poor families from lives of pain, abuse, poverty, and darkness and seeks to improve their lives by providing access to healthcare and nutrition, education, drug rehabilitation and life skills and training. With the help of Specsavers and The Hope Foundation, improved eye care will be made available to the children living in slums and hospitals in Kolkata.