Optoms run in Ethiopia for Vision Aid Overseas

Twenty-two optical colleagues last weekend competed in the 2017 Great Ethiopian Run to raise funds for charity Vision Aid Overseas (VAO). They joined 44,000 other runners in Addis Ababa for the world’s highest altitude 10,000m road race.

The team plan to raise more than £57,000 to help VAO provide sustainable eyecare in Africa that improves the lives of people with poor eyesight, particularly where eye tests and glasses can help.

All of the team who signed up qualified for company sponsorship, with the first £1,000 of the £2,600 minimum donation per runner donated by Specsavers.

Optometrist Sarah Marshall who is Bicester store director and a member of the UK/ROI Board said: ‘I completed the run in just over an hour. It was hot, hilly and due to the altitude, I felt like I couldn’t breathe for half of the run. But when you run with over 44,000 people, with many more watching, it turned into an amazing experience. A really big well done to the other Specsavers colleagues who I ran with.’

VAO Director Andy Holliday said: ‘The Specsavers team were so enthusiastic and such great fun to be with and the money they all raised, and are still raising, will help VAO to change the lives of some of the world’s most marginalised people through the provision of good sight.’

The team flew from London to Addis Ababa on 22 November, allowing time to acclimatise, soak up some of the colour of Ethiopia and also see some of VAO’s work first-hand.

There were only 500 people who took part in the race who were not from the continent. ‘It was amazing,’ said Charlotte, an optometrist in Plymouth. ‘It was the first time that I have been to Africa, so I was very nervous, but excited at the same time. We got to go on a trip to the eye hospital. They would not have any eye care at all if it wasn’t for charities.

‘I wasn’t a keen runner before and it was hard due to the heat and the high altitude. The last three kilometres were the hardest but it was a great atmosphere as all the Ethiopian locals stood and cheered us on.’

Charlotte continued: ‘It’s a charity that’s closely linked to what I do. We had to raise £2,600, but Specsavers donated £1,000 to my total and we held a couple bake sales in the store.

‘It was slightly daunting but all I had to remember was that the funds I raised would go to helping those who desperately need eyecare. In the run-up to the race we were busy raising awareness, we held a raffle to win a holiday in Cornwall, as well as baking cakes to sell.’

VAO has been Specsavers international eye care charity since 2008. The group has raised over £600,000 for Zambian eye care including an optometry technologists training course at the Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka, 10 staffed vision centres across Zambia and a national eyecare outreach programme.

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