Vision Aid Overseas is a charity which helps needy people in developing countries whose lives are blighted by bad eyesight particularly in those cases where spectacles can help. VAO reuses thousands of pairs of second-hand glasses every year and St Thomas’ Parish Church members help in this work. All glasses which are in good condition are useful but the following cannot be used: those that are bent, badly scratched or with scuffed lenses; any which are broken as we cannot mend them, bifocals or varifocals. We cannot accept spectacle cases as they are too heavy to send overseas nor do we need loose lenses or empty frames. Glasses can be given to Granville Stone or left at church. HAYS DX, the specialist optical carriers, take them free of charge and free of paperwork to the headquarters in Crawley, from where they all go to one of the prisons which work with VAO. Selected prisoners are trained by VAO volunteers to carry out a detailed examination of the spectacles before grading the lenses and packing them. VAO give instruments, hand tools and packing materials to the prisoners who find this relatively satisfying work. The glasses are then sent back to Crawley before being shipped overseas to be used by teams of volunteer, unpaid opticians from England who work with the needy people abroad.
Since January 2003 St Thomas’ has sent 16,572 pair. This is a good cause to help at no cost to anybody.