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Specs for Africa: Improving sight and transforming lives

Safari Consultants clients Anne and Peter Corder have been regular travellers to east and southern Africa for many years. During one recent trip they took out old reading spectacles to see if they would be of any benefit to local people with sight challenges living in rural communities.

The glasses were transformational – enabling people to read, do close-up work and resume normal lives – things that we take for granted here in the UK.

Inspired by the difference this initiative made, they returned home and pledged to collect more pre-loved reading spectacles and sunglasses to broaden support to rural communities. Specs for Africa was born!

They asked friends, family and business contacts to support the initiative and the specs poured into their Cambridgeshire home. An optician friend donated a focimeter to enable them to assess the strength of the lenses; and a range of friends and contacts began taking consignments out to Africa as part of their luggage allowances, then passing them on to chosen projects in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The initiative has gained significant traction.

“We have transformed a room of our home into a mini recycling facility where the donated glasses are assessed, sanitised, labelled, put into microfibre pouches and then into recycled cotton bags for delivery. We also provide eye test charts with each consignment to help get the right lens match,” said Anne.

The initiative – it is not a registered charity – has now delivered over 2500 pairs over the last couple of years. They only send out reading glasses and sunglasses, which are in demand – not for fashion purposes – but because they protect African eyes from bright sun, dust and wood smoke damage.

Safari Consultants staff support this initiative by taking bags of spectacles out to the earmarked projects during regular educational trips – but Anne and Peter are always looking for people keen to donate 1.3kg of their hold luggage allowance to take a bag of specs to deliver to their ground handlers, who then get them to where they are most needed.

Feedback from recipient community projects has been uplifting and humbling with lives completely transformed. The demand seems infinite. The cost? Nothing – except human kindness.

Betty Ncube from the little village of Dirimwe in Zimbabwe had been unable to thread a needle to earn a living basket weaving due to her failing eyesight. But when she tried on a pair of our donated pre-loved specs she could suddenly see perfectly. She was both amazed and delighted. It meant she could now thread her needle, resume basket weaving again and earn a living for her family. What a result – and only made possible thanks to the generosity of Specs for Africa donations.

If you would like to support this initiative by taking a bag of specs with you on your travels to Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Malawi – please drop Anne and Peter a note directly at or contact your Safari Consultants’ travel specialist.