Glasses on Wooden Table
Black Gradient Shadow

Seeing is believing ​for County ​Durham Rotarian

story by: sue campbell

A bit of determination by a veteran Rotarian has seen the collection of more than ​8,000 pairs of unwanted spectacles in just five months for a sight-saving project ​in Africa.

Geoff Batchelor has been a member of Rotary Newton Aycliffe in the north-east ​of England for nearly 50 years, and is its only remaining continuous founder aged ​82.

But nothing stops him when he gets involved in a project. And this one involved ​not only local collection points, but a partnership with the Specsavers ​multinational optical retail chain.

Geoff heard of SpecSort, a 25-year-old signature project for Rotary York Ainsty in ​November last year. Members collect glasses from opticians then sort and grade ​them, before taking them to Africa, where local eye clinics provide sight tests to ​ensure the spectacles go to the right person.

Geoff said: “I thought it was a brilliant project and felt I could help. So I went into ​Specsavers in Newton Aycliffe and nearby Bishop Auckland, as well as ​establishments locally.

“Just 10 days after launching I went back to Newton Aycliffe Specsavers and they ​had already collected 1,000 pairs of spectacles.”

Geoff Batchelor standing with bags of used spectacles he has collected

Geoff Batchelor with some of his collection

Geoff, a former shop proprietor in Newton Aycliffe and well-known figure around ​the County Durham town, said the number was now well over 8,000 and they ​were still coming in.

“It just shows you how kind people can be when you ask them, and we’re very ​grateful to everyone who has responded to this appeal.”

Geoff has been involved in many community projects through Rotary, including ​helping refer people to foodbanks, healthcare and community services.

“For me, Rotary is all about community – being part of it and helping people. ​Getting the message out about what we do is crucial and it doesn’t matter if you ​are 82 or 22, you can help.”

It’s hardly surprising that in his club, Geoff is referred to as ‘the legend’.

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