Strabane optician speaks of 'heartbreaking' poverty witnessed on charity mission

A STRABANE man has just returned from a visit to the Indian city of Kolkata following a week-long charity mission with Specsavers charity partner, The Hope Foundation.

Keith McCallion, a past pupil of St Colman’s High School, visited the destitute city where he volunteered at the Hope Foundation Eye Clinic.

Keith works with Specsavers which has committed to funding for three years in a bid to provide basic eye health care to the impoverished community.

As well as tending to over 1,300 patients, the local man also visited local slum communities and toured the city at night with the mobile health bus treating those living on the poverty-stricken streets of Kolkata who were deemed too poorly to make the trip to the eye clinic.

Thanks to Keith, along with his Specsavers colleagues, over 1,300 patients received eye checks, over 1,000 glasses were dispensed and in some of the more severe cases, patients were referred to the eye hospital for surgery.

Although what was provided can almost be seen as basic eye care in the first world, many of those who were treated by Keith and the Specsavers team had never had access to eye care. 

Speaking about his first visit to the city of Kolkata with The Hope Foundation, the Strabane man said the experience is one that will stay with him forever.

‘Poverty’

He said: “I am so grateful to have had the privilege of visiting Kolkata with The Hope Foundation and Specsavers. The poverty we witnessed whilst working in the city is remarkable.

“It was shocking to witness the destitute living conditions first hand so to be able to give those with so little the ability to see is an honour.

“It was so heart-warming to meet the thousands of patients we treated. I’d like to take a moment to thank all of those who have helped make this unforgettable journey possible, my colleagues, friends and our incredibly generous customers – you have all contributed to giving some special and deserving people the gift of sight.”

At the end of the week-long volunteering trip, Keith presented a cheque of 75,000 euro, on behalf of Specsavers, to founder of The Hope Foundation, Maureen Forrest. This will play a vital role in sustaining the eye care clinic in Kolkata.

‘Heart-breaking’

Keith continued: “The week I spent in Kolkata will stay with me forever. The poverty I witnessed first-hand was heartbreaking to see, however, I will be forever grateful for this life changing experience.

“It is amazing to see how the clinic have used funds we have raised over the course of the year.

“We will continue to raise vital funds for The Hope Foundation and continue aiding their mission to combat the dire living conditions in the poverty-stricken city of Kolkata.”

The Hope Foundation Ireland is a registered Irish charity working with street and slum children in Kolkata. The charity works to free children and poor families from lives of pain, abuse, poverty and darkness and seeks to improve their lives by providing access to healthcare and nutrition, education, drug rehabilitation and life skills and training.

With the help of Specsavers and The Hope Foundation, improved eye care will be made available to the children living in slums and hospitals in Kolkata.

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