Secondhand spectacles put to use in the Pacific

Dunedin optometrist David Bridgman with some of the spectacles destined for reuse in the Pacific...
Dunedin optometrist David Bridgman with some of the spectacles destined for reuse in the Pacific Islands. Photo: Gillian Vine
Thousands of pairs of used glasses that would otherwise be dumped are helping improve the sight of people in Pacific countries and Dunedin people are playing their part.

Dunedin optometrist David Bridgman said, ‘‘People ask, ‘Have you got any use for old glasses?’.’’

His company, Bridgman Eyecare, was given at least 300 pairs of spectacles each year.

To be able to be reused, frames needed to be in reasonable condition and lenses single-vision prescription only.

‘‘I do check them all,’’ Mr Bridgman said.

‘‘We don’t send progressive lenses as they’re too individual and can’t be swapped between people.’’

Cases are not sent overseas, because of the additional weight.

The programme is run by Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas (VOSO), a New Zealand charitable trust that provides free eye aid to the Pacific. A voluntary service, it has been supported by optometrists and ophthalmologists for more than 30 years and offers cataract surgery as well as free spectacles.

Since VOSO began, thousands of pairs of glasses have been sent to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, and given without charge to children and adults.

‘‘I started in practice in 1990 and we were collecting them then,’’ Mr Bridgman, a third-generation member of Bridgman Eyecare, said of the programme.

Lions Clubs co-ordinate collection and send donated spectacles to clubs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Trained volunteers sort, clean and note the prescription strengths of the glasses.

‘‘We used to send them to Wellington ourselves but now a Dunedin Lions Club collects them from us,’’ Mr Bridgman said.

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