August 2020

'Dear All,

I trust you, your family and colleagues are all well and coping positively with the effects of the Coronavirus crisis. Vision Aid Overseas, as an organisation that has received the support of the optical sector in particular for so many years, truly hopes that you have come through the crisis intact and are managing well to respond to the challenges that the crisis has posed for us all. We have been thinking of you over the last few months.

It has been a while since providing an update on Vision Aid Overseas, back in April, which now seems so long ago.

Our Eye Health Programmes in Africa

Our programme staff in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia are all well and their programmes have remained in hibernation from normal programme activities, in their respective country lockdowns over the last few months. However, in both Sierra Leone and Zambia, and with the support of The Clothworkers Foundation and Specsavers respectively, we have provided support to the national Coronavirus response in these countries, and you can read more about Sierra Leone and Zambia.

We are very fortunate that our programme donors have been very supportive throughout the crisis and agreed to continue paying staff salaries and minimal office costs whilst the programme activities were suspended. We would like to acknowledge this unwavering support from The Clothworkers Foundation, Specsavers, and the USAID Childhood Blindness Programme[1]. The situation remains fluid, but all being well, programme activities are expected to resume in September/October 2020 and we will keep you updated as to progress.

Covering our costs

As you will know from our recent appeals in May and June, we had been struggling with balancing our budget since March 2020, due to the decrease in expected income, due to the Coronavirus crisis and its impact on fund-raising.

I am very happy and relieved to report that we have so far raised in excess of £176,000. Huge thanks to our many supporters and regular givers as well as incredible support from the Maitri Trust, the Clothworkers Foundation, the Steel Charitable Trust and the Paget Charitable Trust, who gave large individual gifts to ensure that Vision Aid Overseas continues to thrive going forward. We also received a small grant from Crawley Borough Council. Thank you again to everyone that contributed, it will make such a massive difference.

Staffing

As previously reported, we had furloughed many of our UK staff since the beginning of the crisis in March 2020, and most staff will now start to come back to work at least part-time over the next few months until the furlough scheme ends by the 1st November 2020.

With some of the funding we have received from The Clothworkers Foundation and the Maitri Trust we are happy to report that we will be boosting our fund-raising efforts over the next 8 months with continued capacity to raise funds from Institutions, Trusts and Foundations. Our current Fund-Raising and Communications Director is leaving us for a new adventure in Spain and we will be recruiting a new Fund-Raising Manager in a more focused job role. You will therefore see two adverts running throughout August for two positions – Fundraising Manager and Senior Fund-Raising Officer – Trusts and Foundations (part-time).     

Recycling

Prior to the onset of the Coronavirus crisis, we had in 2018 started an organisational review of our glasses recycling operation in Crawley. Through a cross-organisational review group consisting of staff members, trustees, and volunteers we had from October 2018 to February 2020 reviewed our operation thoroughly, including consultations with external stakeholders (including recycling experts and our current partners).

We explored different options for continuing the operation, necessitated by its continued loss making in terms of raising an income, yet with increasing costs. The Board of Trustees considered all options presented at the Board Meeting in February 2020 and agreed that the best option would be to cease the current operation entirely, by the end of the current premises lease at the end of December 2020.

However, we temporarily closed the recycling operation due to the Coronavirus crisis at the beginning of April 2020, and it has remained closed.

We have now made the decision not to try and re-open the recycling operation, as there are only a couple of months between now and the pre-planned closure at the end of December 2020.

This decision has been part economical but is also to reduce the risk to staff when the activity is not necessary. We will therefore work to communicate this change to all the practices we work with, including Specsavers and many others, as well as courier services DHL and DX, to ensure this change is well understood by all and everyone is supported through the transition.

Where we can, we will provide clarity over the coming weeks as to alternative arrangements for recycling, where we can.

Please direct enquiries as usual by email to [email protected]

We are also negotiating with our landlord to exit the warehouse and office premises earlier than the end of the current lease if possible, to reduce costs further. We will provide a less expensive and flexible office space for UK staff going forward, with the majority undertaking much more flexible working, including a greater proportion of home working going forwards.

Change management

The Senior Management Team will therefore be concentrating on change management processes for the next few months and ask for your further support to help us transition these changes.

If you have specific questions relating to our change processes, please send them to [email protected] and we will endeavour to provide an answer.

Annual General Meeting and Members Meeting 2020

We really look forward to engaging further with you at the Members Meeting and Annual General Meeting on Saturday 7th November 2020 which is likely to be a mixture of face-to-face with live streaming (depending on government guidance nearer the time). More details on this will follow.

We are also developing a new strategy for Vision Aid Overseas to 2030 and this is likely to be a focus for the Members Meeting.

Stay safe and well and with our very Best Wishes, and thanks again for your tremendous support over the past few months,

Nicola Chevis

Chief Executive, on behalf of the team at Vision Aid Overseas

[1] The Childhood Blindness Programme is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).