The UK’s homeless are struggling to function with prescriptions of up to -20.00 dioptres. This is just one of the shocking findings of volunteer optometrists at Vision Care for Homeless People.
Optometrists and dispensing opticians are urgently required by the charity to work at the London, Birmingham, Manchester and Brighton centres.
“Some professionals are put off from volunteering because they don’t know who they’ll meet. The majority of those who come to us for help are marginalised people who live in hostels or are sleeping on a friend’s sofa: they just do not feel comfortable about going into a High Street opticians,” said charity chair, Elaine Styles.
The complete optician’s practices are kitted out with equipment donated by many UK companies.
“Suppliers have been so generous: it was always my aim to provide a comprehensive optician’s practice, but within an approachable environment for homeless people. So far we have seen more than 9,000 patients,” added Elaine.
“Our volunteers normally come for a session just once a month and they find it tremendously rewarding. Other practitioners may volunteer occasionally to fit in with their busy work and family lives; this helps us to cover the holidays of our regular volunteers. The service is greatly valued and it is a shame when we are not able to open up the practice because of a lack of volunteers.”
Since opening eleven years ago, volunteers have picked up some serious pathologies and helped thousands to regain their self-respect with the aim of getting back to work.
“A lot of people need help to be able to read a job application form before they can get started, and even providing ready readers is a solution for many. Homeless people face barriers to accessing health care but are more in need of eye care than the general population and receiving eye care within our centres from a caring team makes them feel safe. Our patients are so grateful for what we do.”
Pictured is our team of volunteers at our Birmingham clinic, they are from the left to right Andy Hutchence, Zillul Islam, Faima Begum, Optometrist Elizabeth Thomas and Sakif Kamali. Zillul, Faima and Sakif are all first year optometry students volunteering from Aston University.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities than click here.