The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers' Charity's first year of funding for Goalball UK is well under way and already providing benefits. The grant of £10,000 for 3 years is intended primarily to help set up new clubs in London, the first being in Tower Hamlets. The team at Goalball UK are hoping to be in contact with Eye Clinic Liaison Officers, particularly those at Moorfields and Guys and St Thomas's Hospital, to encourage young people and their families to go along and try out the sport. Taster sessions are being offered at the London Elephants Club, at Elephant and Castle, in addition to club days in other parts of the country.
At a special event in Sheffield, Goalball UK's base, in September, Charity Trustees were able to meet the men's Goalball squad just about to head out to Poland for the European championships. Both the men's and women's teams have a real chance of reaching the Paralympics within the next few years, if excellent coaching and an overwhelming team spirit count for anything. The team of young men explained how Goalball participants treat each other as family. They look after each other, meeting at central stations before making their way together to sports venues. Chain hotels are apparently ideal, being both cheaper and always laid out to the same pattern, but the costs of travelling by train around the country are a challenge for many.
It was only perhaps when the time came for volunteers to try playing Goalball for themselves that the speed and expertise needed really came home. The new players were given a special eye shield and were shown how to use the goalposts to gauge their position on the pitch, but suddenly realised how difficult it was to work out not just where they were but where the ball was coming from. Thankfully the ball was being thrown with considerably less power than in the previous international-standard training match.
Goalball are keen to recruit more volunteer helpers ("Activators") around the country. A couple of hours at a weekend from time to time would be very much appreciated and full training can be given. Please contact Steve Cox on firstname.lastname@example.org
Andean Medical Mission
The Charity has provided a second year of funding for the Andean Medical Mission which aims to reduce avoidable blindness in Bolivia, an area with very few eye health professionals available to deliver care and support. The funding will be used to help train local doctors in basic eye care and provide basic equipment. The geography of the area is difficult and transport is often via river.
Having delivered training in all the main towns, there is a trainer in place in each location and the work of the project in the last few months has moved on to needs assessment and training in the 130 small villages where there is a health centre with a doctor or a nurse.
Baluji Music Foundation
Congratulations to the Baluji Music Foundation which has received a grant of £5,000 from our charity.
Founded in 2008, the Baluji Music Foundation is a charity which facilitates blind and visually impaired people's participation in music making. It provides workshops and performance opportunities and supports blind musicians seeking to advance a career in music. Through music and performance, the organisation seeks to promote positive attitudes to visual impairment and disability. The charity was established in 2008 by prominent blind Indian musician Baluji Shrivastav OBE together with musician and writer Linda Shanson.
The Inner Vision Orchestra, the UK's only blind orchestra, has performed in venues across London and is promoting accessibility to music for more blind and visually impaired musicians, giving them confidence through workshops and performances.
For almost 50 years, Northern Ballet has been bringing world-class dance and storytelling to communities across the UK. Northern Ballet delivers a diverse education programme and engages with over 60,000 people of all ages, means and abilities every year. In addition to productions at over 40 venues nationwide, the Company's learning team work to break down the barriers to participation and offer accessible resources, workshops and activities, from wheelchair dance training courses (In Motion), to hospice projects enabling children with life limiting conditions and their families to enjoy dance together.
Our Charity's grant of £5,000 will help to fund Access Days in Nottingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Hull, Woking and Leeds for vision impaired people. These days involve a free Tourh Tour which introduces elements of the production to aid their understanding of the show. Participants can hear a description of the scenery, feel the props and costumes and discover the shapes and quality of movement from the ballet with the aid of Company dancers. Performances are then brought to life with a detailed description by VocalEyes with music played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia.
The Spectacle Makers' Charity, using some funds donated by the Worcestershire Local Optical Committee, made a donation of £4,400 to MACS in May 2017. Here is an extract from their report.
MACS (Microphthalmia, Anophthalmia and Coloboma Support) is UK's national charity for children born without eyes or with underdeveloped eyes. These young people also face additional health needs on top of their MACS conditions including asthma, ASD, learning difficulties and nystagmus (constant uncontrolled movement of the eyes).
32 MACS children took part in the Caldecotte adventure trip this year from 30 July to 6 August 2017. The first five days were for 19 children aged ten and over who attended without a parent. The second three-day part of the trip was a long weekend for 13 children aged between five and ten who attended with a parent.
All the children could take part in a wide range of activities including canoeing, climbing, zorbing, fencing, crate stacking and archery.
MACS sets each activity by ability rather than just mixing children together. This meant that those who had some experience in an activity could be challenged appropriately and those with limited / no experience were able to enjoy working at a pace that suited them and take on activities that enabled them to achieve more than they might have expected.
The feedback from young people and their parents is worth noting:
- 100% said they felt proud of something they had done on the trip
- 100% said they had done something new on the trip
- 82% either made new friends or strengthened existing relationships
- 50% of parents commented that their child was both more independent and better able to make friends following the trip
"I enjoyed the sailing, especially when I stopped the boat from tipping over in the windy conditions."
WORLD JEWISH RELIEF – Critical Needs Project
In March 2016 the Spectacle Makers' Charity gave a grant of £5,000 for this charity's Critical Needs project to help vulnerable elderly people in Ukraine by funding prescription spectacles and cataract surgery. One year on, their report shows that quality of life has been improved for 830 beneficiaries through the project (regardless of religious belief).
Many were again able to read, to leave home and to make contacts within their local community at a very difficult time for all. The Spectacle Makers' Charity grant made a real difference to 243 specific individuals. Yegor [INSERT PHOTO] was one of them.
Yegor, 72, lives in a small village outside Kiev with his wife. He has suffered from severe osteo-arthritis, medication for which takes up most of his meagre pension. Yegor had depended on the same pair of glasses for more than four years but his vision then deteriorated, to the point where he could only discern silhouettes. The Critical Needs project funded a sight test for Yegor – his first in five years. It was found that he had cataracts in both eyes which needed urgent treatment and he was booked in for surgery immediately.
Yegor's life has been transformed. "After my operations, I can see everything that is happening around me. I can see goals being scored in football – not just hear them happen; I rarely leave the house but I can look out of the window and see what is going on in the street. And of course, I can now see my wife's face! I am very grateful to the kind people who enabled me to have these operations."
VocalEyes touch tours and training at St Paul's Cathedral
In the past, the Charity has helped to fund visits for vision-impaired visitors as part of the Open House weekend in the City of London, which happens each autumn. This year, the Charity was approached by St Paul's Cathedral, working with VocalEyes, to see if we could help with training for those conducting touch tours in the Cathedral.
St Paul's had two objectives:
- to have a qualified Guide on each weekday and each Saturday team who is a trained expert in visual impairment and able to deliver a competent Touch and Feel guided tour.
- to further train a visual impairment champion on each of our key staff welcome teams (Visits, Admissions, Schools and Family Learning, Virgers and the Audio Guide team.) These Champions would better understand the requirements of a visually impaired person and be confidently and appropriately pro-active in helping them get the most out of their visit, and would also be aware of the contents and resources of our touch tour.
The donation of £3,000 was invested in a three day course: a two-day programme delivered by two trainers from "Vocaleyes", a half day pre-course preparation and a half day follow up consultancy. The course ran at the Cathedral on 27th and 28th March 2017, and was attended by 6 Volunteer Guides and 8 members of staff.
Day one covered awareness and etiquette and introduced the concept of audio description; it included experiential learning and practice in description. Day two was focussed on practice, mostly in the Cathedral, followed by a session to agree next steps.
Feedback from the course was extremely positive with all participants agreeing that the course had fully exceeded their expectations. Guidance on approaching and assisting people with vision impairment was considered particularly valuable.
The members of the group agreed to continue working as a team and to be "champions" for blind and partially sighted people within their own teams – for example, spreading the message that there is an audio described tour on the St Paul's audio guide. St Paul's is also hoping to achieve a higher attendance by visitors with disabilities, including vision impairment.
Vision 2020 Links Programme
The Vision 2020 Links programme was launched in 2004 to improve the quality and quantity of eye care training and services in Africa. A link is established by matching a UK eye department in a long term partnership with a UK eye department. Each link is directly contributing to reducing the number of people who are unnecessarily blind.
One example is the launch of national diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment services in Zambia, thanks to a link between the eye departments in Kitwe in Zambia and Frimley Park hospital in Camberley. The Government of Zambia has now agreed to provide mobile screening cameras for five provinces and training for ophthalmic nurses is under way.
Welsh National Opera
The Charity gave a grant to support the provision of audio described performances at different venues as part of WNO's touring programme. 77 vision impaired patrons were able to attend and enjoy performances of Sweeney Todd (Autumn 2015), The Barber of Seville (Spring 2016) and Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci (Summer 2016) in Cardiff, Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham and Milton Keynes.
One member of the Birmingham audience commented, ‘As always, WNO rose to the challenge superbly - not only helpfully describing what was happening on stage, but at the same time managing to weave in a paraphrase of the actual words being sung. For this particular visually- impaired opera-lover at least, the combination worked extremely well. An accomplished cast and orchestra along with your tour de force of live commentary meant that I had a wonderful night at the opera'.
Blind in Business
Blind in Business was founded in 1992 by three blind graduates. Even after graduating with good degrees, young people can initially find it difficult to gain work, due to misconceptions and wariness from employers who may be wary about visual impairments. Blind in Business offers training and recruitment services to help people with visual impairments fulfil their career ambitions. They also support employers, providing specialist awareness workshops for Human Resources staff and interviewers and seminars on integrating blind and partially sighted colleagues into the workplace.
Heroes' Square at the National Memorial Arboretum
The Master and the Clerk were honoured to be invited to attend the opening of the new Remembrance Centre at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 18 October 2016. The NMA, part of the Royal British Legion, was a wonderful place to be on a beautiful autumn day. There are so many different memorials and every opportunity for respect and reflection.
At the heart of the Centre is an interactive exhibition about the concept of Remembrance. The timeline allows people to explore how the practice of Remembrance has evolved over time – from historic rituals associated with burial mounds, to modern ceremonies which take place in different regions and countries on key dates throughout the year. Old and young alike were fascinated by the passing of the seasons as you walked across one section of the exhibition floor – green leaves turning beneath one's feet to autumn colours, then overlaid with poppies.
The area outside the new Visitor Centre is laid with special paviors, each one dedicated on behalf of its donor. Like those of other Livery Companies, the Spectacle Makers' pavior is engraved with our Achievement of Arms. Company records did not necessarily list those killed in action and we have no other memorial to members who lost their lives in either of the two World Wars so this provides a long lasting reminder and tribute. If you are travelling in, or through, Staffordshire, it is definitely worth a detour.
Children using a Synoptophore at the lab in Reading - a project helped by the WCSM Charity
The WCSM Charity has supported a Vision Aid Overseas project helpiong Ebola survivors
The WCSM Charity has helped to fund ophthalmic nurse training in Lesotho