Travelling to the Horn of Africa, a retired Garstang optometrist has helped to repair and improve the sight of poverty stricken locals.
Working with the Scotland-based charity Sight Aid International, 69-year-old Peter Howard made one of his regular trips out to the Ethiopian region of Tigray as he looked to continue a five-year mission to improve the area’s eye care.
Using his expertise gained from decades of working for his own Garstang business Clare and Howard Ltd, Peter took to Mek’ele, the capital city in northern Tigray to screen more than 1,200 children and adults to provide a type of care that would normally be scarce.
Going into orphanages, schools and centres for street children, Peter explains how the reaction from improving people’s sight makes it all worth it.
“We were there for 18 days working with the sight testing clinic, a spectacle glazing laboratory and the vision centre and we screen children and adults for diseases which can lead to blindness or just simply provide glasses for those that need them.
“There’s lots of trachoma, a bacterial infection in the eye, being carried by flies out there and without treatment it can see someone go blind within one or two years. It’s easily treatable, but the area is so poor they often don’t have access to medication.
“Adults give the best reaction because their sight has started to deteriorate and they have to stop working in some cases. Children tend to just go blank and not understand but it’s great to know how much it will benefit their education.”
The area sits just 25 miles from the famine sight which triggered Bob Geldof’s Live Aid and Peter, who lives on Yewlands Drive, Garstang says with the charity’s work, the area is slowly improving and he is looking forward to his future visits.