The Hero of Sight-Saving; Optometrist Travels to Ethiopia to Save People's Vision

Article excerpt

Byline: THEO MERZ

HE has looked after the eyesight of thousands of Tyneside patients, but Michael Offord is now taking his skills to the third world.

The optometrist, who has run his own practice in Kingston Park for more than 30 years, has travelled to Ethiopia to help save people's sight.

The 62-year-old said he was reduced to tears on the six-week Vision Aid Overseas project.

"It was an emotional rollercoaster," said Mr Offord, who has just returned from Africa.

"We see people with eye conditions that, if it was in this country, would have been picked up years ago and never have been a problem," he said.

"But there it's often too late to cure."

The optometrist was one of eight people in the project attached to a university hospital in Hawassa, a city in the south of the landlocked country.

The group taught African optometry students and went with them on visits to local clinics.

During the sessions the Vision Aid team would, if possible, match glasses donated in the West with eye complaints suffered by the Ethiopians they saw.

Mr Offord remembered a 12-year-old boy he spoke to via an interpreter.

"He had not attended school for three years as he was unable to see. …

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