Optical Project

WJR's Optical Programme was established to ensure that those whose financial situations make basic items such as a pair of glasses an unobtainable luxury do not have to go without.

WJR's Optical Programme was established to ensure that those whose financial situations make basic items such as a pair of glasses an unobtainable luxury do not have to go without.

WJR's Optical Programme was established to ensure that those whose financial situations make basic items such as a pair of glasses an unobtainable luxury do not have to go without.

The programme supports communities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, where huge numbers struggle below the poverty line, and ordinarily would have to sacrifice buying necessities such as a pair of glasses.

Good eyesight has an immeasurable impact on quality of life. WJR’s Optical programme, sending more than 3,000 spectacles a year at a cost of £5.93 each, has wide-ranging effects, relieving the financial budgets of low income families and individuals, as well as increasing the opportunities that those lacking the funds to buy spectacles they need. These include preventing difficulties that can arise due to poor eyesight, such as social exclusion when travelling is restricted. Obtaining a full and proper education can be much harder for children who struggle to read as a result and an inability to appreciate a book or newspaper further limits the activities of isolated, often housebound, elderly individuals.

Glasses have been sent to Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. 

WJR takes particular pride in the Optical Programme because it is led entirely by volunteers. Retired opticians Harry Heber and David Goldman work from WJR's offices in London to ensure the programme continues to provide thousands of spectacles to those in need.

Harry obtains special rates with suppliers of frames and lenses to secure as many spectacles as possible at minimum cost, maximising the impact of every donation to the programme. He also organises the entire mechanism for getting spectacles to our clients.

The programme extends into the local communities where each individual  receives a professional eye test where a spectacle prescription is issued and brought to their Jewish Community or Welfare Centre. The prescriptions are then sent to our optician volunteers at WJR with the beneficiary’s other basic information such as their name, gender and age, for a suitable spectacle frame to be selected and glazed.

All the frames and lenses supplied are individually prepared and checked to ensure their optical accuracy before being sent. The otherwise unaffordable provision of a pair of corrective spectacles is one of the most tangible results of World Jewish Relief's commitment to a Jewish lifeline worldwide.

WJR also supports local optical programmes run on the ground in Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. 980 pairs of glasses will be provided for visually-impaired elderly people who could not afford to purchase them otherwise. 600 pairs will be made by a local optician for impoverished older people living in Kiev and 360 in Dnepropetrovsk, as well as 20 additional pairs for those who require complex lenses in Krivoy Rog and Zaparozhye. 

1.jpg
  • 2.jpg
  • Keith Preston Pics 006 v2.jpg
  • Keith Preston Pics 032.jpg

Anna's story

One of the clients who benefitted from WJR's Optical Programme is 83-year-old Anna Bekker from Tbilisi, Georgia. Despite a difficult childhood, her family fled famine in Ukraine when she was aged three she worked hard all her career as a doctor and served as a productive member of society.

However, Anna never married and now has no-one to look after her. Her decrepit two-room apartment, where she has lived for 76 years, suffered serious damage in the 2002 Georgian earthquake. Anna must share a communal bathroom and kitchen with the rest of her floor in the apartment block.

She now suffers from arthritis and heart disease and a fractured hip, rendering her housebound. But Anna only has her £40 a month pension to pay her rent, utility bills, food and medications.

Anna currently receives food packages, home care, fuel and blankets from the local WJR Jewish Community Centre. She has also been provided with spectacles, so that although she may be housebound, she can at least still read books and newspapers. Anna said:

"I'm deeply touched and thankful for the gift of these spectacles. It will help me so much -- I do not know what life would be like without them."

Older people
Community development, Relieving poverty
Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine

What's New

WJR statement on events in Donetsk: "Jews must register themselves or face deportation"
Read more
"Vision" in Rwanda 20 years on
Read more
Videos from our Ukraine Crisis Briefing
Read more
Three years of bloodshed in Syria
Read more
Up to 100 dead in Kiev, Ukraine – WJR briefing
Read more
See all news