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Returning Vision

Returning Vision Moldova 2015, by Claire Matheson, 3rd Year Optometry Student

I have recently got back from a Returning Vision trip to Moldova which was very rewarding. I went from Stanstead Airport with 5 other students and 5 supervisors. We took equipment and new glasses with common prescriptions. I also took a whole case of the spectacles donated to Matheson Optometrists, which allowed us to help many more people.


In Britain, we are very lucky as the majority have the glasses we need - but in poorer countries, many people don't have access to eye-care. In fact, over one billion people in the world can't see properly - just because they don't have glasses. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and therefore one where help from Returning Vision is greatly appreciated.

We stayed in a village in Rezina and drove each morning to a different rural village. When we arrived on Sunday, we met the kind volunteer translators who were essential to the success of the trip.

On Monday we travelled to the village Papauti, and were able to see every person who turned up. Most people had never had an eye test before and were unable to see well in the distance and many people over the age of 45 couldn’t see close up to read or perform near tasks. Some children had high prescriptions so struggled to read and do all the things we take for granted. It was fantastic to give them glasses and transform their quality of life.

On Tuesday we got up very early and travelled to the village Mateuti. We worked until everyone had been seen.

Wednesday was also busy and I was able to assist in a domiciliary visit out to a lady who was unable to get to the school where we were testing.

On Thursday we saw 588 people!

Friday was our last day of testing and in total we were able to help 1708 people.

Matheson Optometrists donated a specialist eye examination lens to local Moldovan Ophthalmologist, Irina Varlan, This will help the local eye hospital to provide better care for its patients.

Thanks to everyone who donated money and their old spectacles – without which we
wouldn’t have been able to help so many people.



Romania - Returning Vision 2014


The 2014 Returning Vision Trip left for the remote parts of Romania in September 2014. On the Trip were Andrew Matheson and Dorian Waters, old hands at this sort of thing, Malcolm Mciver, Andrew’s pre-registration graduate optometrist and 4 3rd year Optometry students from Cardiff University, Alexy Jackson, Brodie Wainwright, Sejal Mistry and Sophie Buist.

Our first stop was a village called Valfurile, which is about 4 hours east from Timisoara, where we landed. We set up camp and saw patients on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We then travelled to Stinapari, about 4-5 hours away for 1 days testing, then leaving for Carbunari, high in the mountains. The last day was spent in a town on the Sebian border called Coronini. We saw a further 487 patients on our last, very long day before heading home via Timisoara. We examined 1487 people in all, dispensing approximately 2000 pairs of spectacles, did 15 home visits for the infirm and 4 minor procedures.


Andrew Matheson






Andrew Matheson, a local Hampshire optometrist whose practices Matheson Optometrists are located in Hampshire, along with a group of other UK Eyecare professionals, collectively known as Returning Vision, visited Malawi this summer.

During 5 days of intensive eye examinations, over 2000 people were tested. For many Malawi people this was the first and possibly only, sight test that they might ever have. In addition minor eye conditions were treated with antibiotics, ingrowing eyelashes removed etc.


As with the previous expedition to Romania, many of these people, had vision so bad that they would have been classified as blind or partially sighted in the UK. Luckily in most cases that were seen, their sight could be simply restored by the provision of suitable spectacles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 38% of the blind in the undeveloped world are simply because they dont have the correct spectacles. This is even greater than those caused by cataracts (38%).

About half the spectacles supplied were new and donated by the participating optometrists and half good condition, calibrated and serviced, second hand ones kindly donated by Matheson Optometrists patients. Between these 2 sources of corrective eyewear we were able to restore adequate sight to the majority of the patients seen.

There are collecting boxes for good condition second hand spectacles at all six Matheson Optometrists Practices in Grayshott, Petersfield, Alresford, Denmead, Purbrook and Four Marks. These are then overhauled and serviced before being catalogued for future use.



the project was organised through Sight 2020 Direct, the Onani eye foundation and the catholic church in Malawi, also providing accommodation and transport and suitable venues for the visiting optometrists

The main sponsors for the new spectacles provided were Matheson Optometrists and Peter Hong optometrists in Gwent, Wales. Complex prescriptions were made with the help of Will Luff and his company Fairplay Optical.

It is hoped that a future visit by an ophthalmologist will enable those requiring cataract surgery to see again too.



Andrew and Claire Matheson receiving donated frames from Stephen Atkins of Buriton Parish Council


Andrew Matheson, a local optometrist and colleague, Dorian Waters took a group of final year optometry students from Cardiff University to a small village in the Romanian countryside where they provided free eye-care services to the local rural population. They were assisted by Mr Matheson's teenage daughter Claire, currently doing her A-levels, who hopes to take Optometry at Cardiff when she finishes her A-levels. This trip exposed the soon to graduate optometry students to a wide range of eye conditions that they might not often meet in general practice. One such Optometry student, Darlin Yapp, incidentally is currently undertaking her final pre registration year at Matheson Optometrists.

It was a very humbling experience to see how disadvantaged these poor rural people were simply because they could not see properly. It was surprising how most of the people living in the rural areas of Romania have never had an eye examination. During the week they were in Romania, the group examined 1013 peoples eye, several hundred of whom could hardly see the top letters of the eye examination chart.




The group dispensed close to 1700 pairs of spectacles during their visit. These were a mixture of new frames glazed to common prescriptions, second hand spectacles donated by patients at the Matheson Optometrist practices and more complicated prescriptions which were manufactured to new frames on the groups return.

According to the World Health Organisation 38% of the worlds population classified as "blind" simply because they do not have appropriate spectacles. Providing these people with the correct glasses transforms their quality of life, being able to focus on what they are doing, whether it is eating their food, holding a job or getting dressed.

As well as testing peoples eyesight for spectacles the optometrists treated eye infections with antibiotics and performed minor surgical procedures to treat certain eye conditions

Over the next few years the Returning vision team is planning visits to Romania again along with Moldova and Africa.