Premium Exclusives

‘Inspiring’ Kolkata trip was a vision of hope for Bandon’s Marie

March 1st, 2024 3:00 PM

By Martin Claffey

Marie Burke and Deirdre Moore, who took part in a week-long trip to Kolkota working with Specsavers and the Hope Foundation.

Share this article

A WEST Cork optician has described as ‘inspiring’ a fundraising trip to India which has helped give the life-changing gift of sight to thousands of needy people.

Marie Burke was a volunteer on a week-long trip with the Hope Foundation to Kolkata.  

Marie is an optician and director of at Specsavers Bandon. 

Over the course of a week-long trip to India in November, Marie joined Deirdre Moore who is based at Specsavers Wilton and four optometry students from Technological University Dublin, Eimear Kilroy, Irene Finnerty, Brid Stack, and Ava Shiels and Paula James along with their TUD lecturer and head of optometry, Declan Hovenden, on the trip to Kolkata.

Over the course of a week, the group visited 11 different locations and gave eye checks to 2,414 patients, dispensed over 1,904 glasses, and in more severe cases, referred patients to Hope Hospital for surgery. 

For the majority of these people this was their first time ever seeing an optician and availing of the basic of eye health care that we often take for granted here in Ireland.

‘The conditions really are something you wouldn’t believe. We set up one clinic at night-time under a bridge because this was where people were living,’ Marie told The Southern Star.

‘Some of these people have literally nothing. Something as simple as a pair of glasses can mean so much to them.’

Dr. Samiran Mallik, chief executive of The Hope Hospital, emphasised the significance of the visit, noting that 90% of cases of blindness could have been prevented if timely treatment was available. 

One of the people who came upon the night-time clinic was 57-year-old Dannu Prasad Ladar, a long-haul driver. Cataracts had meant driving was dangerous for Dannu, who is the sole provider for his wife and three children, but he had refrained from seeking medical intervention in fear that he would not  afford the healthcare. He called the night clinic a ‘blessing I will be eternally grateful for’ after he was referred to the Hope Hospital for free surgery.

Marie’s trip to India was her third working with Specsavers on helping people in disadvantaged areas, having travelled to Zambia in 2016 and Ethiopia in 2018. 

Following her visit to India in November, Marie said she would be keen to take up the opportunity again. ‘This trip has been inspiring. It really showed me that a little goes a long way and it doesn’t take much to change a lot for people. The graduation of the students was also incredible. It’s fantastic to think that the work will continue after we have left.’

She also paid tribute to the people of Bandon who had given her well wishes and financial support ahead of the trip, including backing the in-store cycle in Bandon Specsavers which saw staff cycle 100kms on Saturday October 14th for the Hope Foundation.

‘People in Bandon know us in the shop and they were so nice and so supportive,’ said a grateful Marie.

Deirdre said: ‘I am so grateful that we got the opportunity to visit Kolkata with The Hope Foundation again this year. What seems like little work to us, makes such a big difference to these communities.

‘What’s really wonderful about The Hope Foundation is that they are working alongside the street communities in Kolkata, and they are changing the lives of everyone in this community. It was a privilege to be there to help them on their journey and to see the benefit of our supports to the hundreds of people we treated.

‘I’d like to thank all of those who helped make the journey possible – you have all contributed to giving something special - the gift of sight.’

At the end of their week-long volunteering trip, which took place in November, Specsavers presented a cheque of €135,000 to founder of The Hope Foundation, Maureen Forrest. This significant donation will play a vital role in sustaining the eye care clinic in Kolkata.

Maureen Forrest, Founder of the Hope Foundation explains that this programme ‘is the difference between life and death to people who can’t feed their families’. 

‘Vision is everything to people and for us to be able to support them in their vision journey is a great privilege.’

Last month, Maureen was honoured at the Cork Person of the Year event at the Metropole Hotel in Cork City, where she was a monthly winner for her work.

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. 

Tags used in this article

Share this article

Related content