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Recycle for Sight makes a blind bit of difference

LIONS WORLD SIGHT DAY
Sponsored by OPSM and Visique Optometrists

MEDIA RELEASE Friday 8 October, 2004

Recycle for Sight makes a blind bit of difference

Help Lions Clubs New Zealand, OPSM and Visique Optometrists mark Lions World Sight Day in New Zealand. Dig-out unwanted eyeglasses and sunglasses in any condition and deliver them to your nearest OPSM store or Visique Optometrist between Monday 11th October and Sunday 16th October and “Recycle for Sight”.

Lions Clubs around the country are organising special events and encouraging people to donate their glasses for the benefit of those who need them most. The recycled glasses will be cleaned and graded at one of two Lions Clubs eyeglass recycling centres, and distributed to areas in New Zealand by Lions clubs and to the South Pacific by Voluntary Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO), a New Zealand wide charity that provides eye examinations and surgery to South Pacific nations (see case studies attached).

Eye Care Facts
- Getting your eyes examined regularly by an optometrist is the key to preventing or reducing serious damage to the eye and blindness.
- Eye examinations screen for conditions related to eye health, for example, the earliest signs of undiagnosed diabetes can be detected as part of a routine eye examination.
- The Royal Foundation for the Blind estimates that at least one fifth of blindness in New Zealand is preventable.
- The numbers of people threatened by blindness is expected to double in less than 30 years.
- Wearing protective eye wear is key to long term eye health.

“Just as New Zealanders screen their skin from harmful ultraviolet light, so should they protect their eyes,” said Dr Donald Klaassen, OPSM. “A good quality and well-fitted pair of sunglasses with lenses that cut out 100% of UV radiation outdoors are recommended for life-long eye health – to prevent cataracts and premature ageing of the eyes.”

Optometrists recommend that eye examinations are carried out regularly. Most importantly:
- If you’re over forty you should get your eyes examined at least every two years (or as recommended by your optometrist)
- Ensure your child has had an eye examination before reaching school-age. Vision problems can limit children’s ability to learn, read and play sport.

John Adam of Visique’s Adam Optometrists says the Lions World Sight Day provides another opportunity to communicate the importance of having regular eye examinations to the wider community.

“It’s important to get across the message that sun damage to eyes is indiscriminate – it happens to people of all ages and ethnicity and it’s important people continue to have eye checks, even if they think their eyes are fine.

“But perhaps the best thing about the Lions World Sight Day is that it aims to provide access to eyewear for everyone. This initiative gives Visique and our customers the chance to give back to the communities we live in and neighbouring Pacific nations by providing glasses to those who need them most,” he says.

Preserving sight has been central to Lions’ volunteerism and fundraising activities worldwide, ever since 1925 when Helen Keller issued a challenge to Lions Clubs to become the “knights of the blind”. For the month of October, Lions members around New Zealand and the world are running sight-related activities to conquer preventable blindness and preserve sight.

(ends)


Lions World Sight Day
Recycle for Sight Case Studies


Send your specs to Fiji for free…
and look at the difference they make!

It’s a special one way deal! Donate your old eyeglasses or sunglasses through Lions World Sight Day and they could end up on the nose of someone in Fiji, Samoa or other Pacific Islands.

Lions World Sight Day is on Wednesday 13 October, but glasses can be dropped off at your nearest OPSM or Visique optometrists between Monday 11th October and Sunday 17th October.

Use it as an excuse to get some new eyeglasses at Visique Optometrists or OPSM and know that, by donating your old specs, you can spectacularly change someone’s life. Those old eyeglasses or sunglasses (that you didn’t manage to break) will be hugely appreciated by someone else.

After collection, the glasses are carefully sorted and graded by Lions and sent to the Pacific Islands with the Voluntary Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO). Teams of VOSO eye care specialists travel to remote places where access to eyecare is very limited and use the glasses to treat those in need. Here are some case study examples…

CASE STUDY ONE: VOSO in Fiji

This is the fourth consecutive year Ophthalmologist Keith Maslin has led a VOSO team to Labasa, the largest town on Vanua Levu, Fiji. The team, which usually includes one or two surgeons and four to five optometrists, visit Fiji for two weeks every year around July.

He says Fiji is a relatively poor country, with very poor health services, and is very short of doctors.

“In Labasa there is only one eye surgeon for a population of around 180,000. As a comparison we have three times as many surgeons per head of population in New Zealand. Unlike our pacific neighbours, our general eye care and understanding of early detection means it is less likely people present with the same level of deterioration,” says Dr Keith Maslin.

In Fiji, around 50% of patients presenting for cataract surgery are blind in both eyes, compared to only a few in New Zealand. Over a ten day period, the VOSO team operates on around 60 to 80 cataracts. This is equivalent to the number the local Fiji surgeon is able to complete over a whole year. In a developed country, such as New Zealand, the number of surgeries conducted would be around ten times that amount, at more than 600 per year per head of population.

Keith considers his most important role has been working with, and up-skilling the local Labasa surgeon with improved surgical technique, and providing basic equipment required for him to practice. Over the last few years he has taught him a number of operations such as the pterygia removal (these are growths across the cornea which can be large and aggressive and grow past the centre of the cornea causing permanent damage).

Diabetic eye disease is also one of the common causes of blindness and is becoming more prevalent in Fiji. Until this year, diabetics who needed laser treatment of their retina were seldom treated as the necessary trip to Suva was financially out of the question. Lambasa was donated a laser this year, and the team was able to do their first laser eye surgery, and teach the local surgeon the laser technique.

While Keith manages around ten operations a day, the optometrists manage to see around 150 people a day. A large meeting hall on the island is transformed and four ‘vision lanes’ are set up. This is where the recycled glasses, collected in the Recycle for Sight programme during Lions World Sight Day in New Zealand, prove invaluable. The optometrists assess a patient and match them to an appropriate optical prescription. The glasses, which have been graded in New Zealand, are then donated to the patient.

“Seeing the delighted smile on people’s faces when they receive glasses, or the eye pads are removed from a previously blind patient after cataract surgery make these trips worthwhile,” says Keith.
“These people, who can otherwise be quite well, can only tell light from dark, they cannot see to get home or walk outside. Providing them with surgery or corrective lenses gives them a huge amount of hope for the future.”

CASE STUDY TWO: VOSO in Samoa

John Tarbutt and his team from VOSO see between 1000 and 2000 patients every annual trip to Samoa utilising between 750 and 1750 glasses from the Lions World Sight Day Recycle for Sight programme.

“A significant number of people in Samoa are of an age where they are having problems with near vision and need reading glasses,” says John. “Many have cataracts and pterygia which need surgery and the diabetics will all be screened this year to check for any eye changes that may require surgery.

We take our own operating microscope for the surgeons and plenty of supplies. Sterility is a major concern and the rate of work is governed by how quickly the instruments can be sterilized given factors such as random power cuts,” says John.

Like Keith Maslin, John considers the interchange of knowledge and skills between the resident surgeon and the VOSO team an important part of the visit.

“The resident ophthalmologist in Samoa keeps very busy with those in need in Apia and therefore welcomes VOSO visits. Our role is to build capacity and help the local staff become more knowledgeable about screening for various eye conditions.”

In past trips, the VOSO team has divided their time between Upolo and Savai’i in Samoa. During their upcoming trip, the team is going to spend most of their time in Savai’i which is relatively remote and only receives eyecare services from VOSO visits.

“For many patients who get treated, simply being able to read the bible, or do handcrafts have become difficult, and the provision of glasses to help them with these tasks is of immense benefit.

Occasionally though we can’t get the perfect match of glasses for a person. In one instance a lady required a different prescription for each eye. The only pair we did have available had the correct prescriptions but in the opposite lenses. The lady concerned left with a pair of upside down glasses and a smile on her face from ear to ear! It’s stories like these that make our job hugely satisfying. Those who donate glasses in the Recycle for Sight programme for Lions World Sight Day should be proud of the difference they make.”

ENDS

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