24 February 2017

Latest news from FoM

A lot has been happening at Focus on Malawi recently, so this post is a kind of catch-up newsround.

Secondhand glasses and Goggle Works Parties

We continue to receive glasses from many individuals, hospitals, churches and other organisations. For which many thanks! Some of the glasses we receive have vintage value and in 2016 we were able to make £222 from selling 20 pairs of vintage glasses on Ebay. With this money we were able to buy ready readers and other useful stuff.

The donated glasses are washed in various supporters’ dishwashers and sorted before measuring. We have a number of eye professionals who steadily measure hundreds of glasses in their spare time. We also have fairly frequent get-togethers in Colchester when friends and supporters sort and measure, with tasty refreshments to help them on. Anyone can help at these ‘Goggle Works Parties’, whether professional or lay. In recent years, we have trained the staff in Malawi to measure glasses, so we send some unmeasured glasses directly to them.

Clinical equipment

In 2016, we have been able to source in the UK and send to Malawi a large amount of good quality optometric equipment (that is, the sort of equipment used when you visit the opticians). Supporters Louise and Colin Tokley got married and all their friends gave money instead of presents so that we could buy a panoptic ophthalmoscope for Livingstonia. An optometry business in Anglesey closed and we were able to buy equipment from its three practices at a very generous price. The shipment is expected to arrive in Malawi soon and will provide full professional equipment for three clinics.

News from the clinics we support:

We report with sadness the death in 2016 of Flyness, one of the clinical staff. We have made a financial gift to her family, as she was the source of income for her children and grandchildren. We visited her family village in September for a celebration of her life.  We have subsequently welcomed the appointment of a new clinician, Leslie Matimba, who will be working alongside Evance Gama. At the same, a search is on to find an appropriate training course for him, but with no progress yet, as the right course is currently unavailable in Malawi.

The clinic, however, is in good shape and serving local people well. An auto-refractor, which we purchased and sent out in 2015, has extended the range of optometric services beyond solving simple reading problems.

Livingstonia is blessed to have Godfrey Mkandawire, a retired senior ophthalmic clinician, working in the hospital and organising clinics at remote sites. He has plans to expand the work and to develop cataract surgery. We continue to support him and the hospital management as they work through all the challenges involved in making these plans a reality.

For some years we have been aware of the need to establish an eye clinic at this hospital, situated near the Zambian border, and which serves a rural population of 140,000. With the support of the hospital’s management, we are now in a position to provide and deliver equipment (planned for September 2017) and to help with training appropriate staff.


We also make ourselves available to support local schools, and when we visit, carry out sight tests as requested. We have sponsored children needing specialist treatment. 

Some of our donors (donations including glasses, equipment and funds)

Eyetech Optical, Slough
Inner Wheel Club, Colchester
Parsons Heath Baptist Church, Colchester
Prettygate Baptist Church, Colchester
Specsavers, Colchester
Bethel and Clark, Colchester
St Michaels Church, Westcliff
Jean and Geoff Thompson, Anglesey
Louise and Colin Tokley, Colchester
Townswomen's Guild, Colchester
...and many other individuals

How we have been spending funds donated

Panoptic ophthalmoscope
Volk Lens
Three combination examination units
Three complete optical mirror and vision chart sets
Two focimeters
Two frame heaters
Comprehensive selection of optometry tools
Sponsored a cataract training refresher course for young clinician at a government hospital.

Thank you The Raven Trust

As always, we are indebted to the amazing storage, transport and admin services of The Raven Trust (John and Sue Challis and friends, including Alan Laverock and Bob Baxter), without which little of of this would have happened.

Future developments

Here are a few of the things we're planning for in 2017:
  • student sponsorship
  • training for clinical staff
  • clinical visits – two planned in 2017
  • sponsorship for children needing specialist treatment
  • fundraising
  • purchase of auto-refractors for Embangweni and Livingstonia
Well there it is! If you have any queries or would like to know more, just get in contact!