Late last year a lovely lady called Barbara Weeden got in touch to tell me about the charity she works for called SeeAbility

Did you know that people with learning difficulties and or disabilities are over 20 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than any other section of society? Eye problems often go undiagnosed for a number of reasons - sometimes families are so engrossed in trying to resolve their child's physical and mental difficulties and fire-fighting various episodes that having an eye test is the last thing on their to-do lists. This can mean that young children have astigmatisms, lazy eyes and all sorts of more serious eye conditions to do with their eye health which go undiagnosed and they can then become young adults  where their inability to do simple tasks like hold a cup or pay attention to someone talking to them becomes part of their long list of "disability symptoms" rather than having that issue attributed to them having poor eyesight. In some cases, people lose the sight in one eye because they never had an eye test during their entire childhood. They become partially blind for a reason that was entirely preventable.

I was astounded when I heard that so many young people don't have eye check-ups because High Street opticians just aren't geared up to testing the eyesight of disabled people and don't have the specialist training to cope with unpredictable behaviour or the  location has poor accessability. See Ability provides an amazing service in sending especially trained opticians out to those that need it - whether it's to a care home so the person feels more relaxed and safe, or to do simple but highly effective eye tests in a number of creative ways so the right perscription and diagnosis can be given. Getting someone with special needs the right pair of glasses can really make a dramatic change to the quality of their lives and can improve their mobility and balance, ability to connect and engage better with other people as well as easing headaches and other ailments associated with eye strain.

It's an understated to say that having good eyesight in order to be able to enjoy life to the full and intereact with others is crucial  - eyes are IMPORTANT, right? But for me - my eyes are also my business - seeing texture and colour, making my designs, having healthy working eyes are crucial to my creative passion and livelihood, so when I found out I needed to wear glasses for the first time at the age of 44 it made a big impression on me - suddenly, perfect eyesight couldn't be taken for granted - my food was blurred when I brought it to my face - threading my sewing machine couldn't be done in poor light or without glasses now, and having to learn when I need the spectacle "crutch" was a new skill to learn - so this year, when I also found out that the pressure behind my eyes was also a bit high and with glaucoma running in the family, it felt even more relevant to support this amazing charity.

Barbara explained that she was asking Sussex based businesses to donate prizes for their special dinner dance and  auction and would I be interested? After seeing this engaging You Tube  FILM showing the many caring and highly creative ways in which the opticians can assess and diagnose sight problems for those that need it most, I was more than happy to help.

I decided to donate one of my leather bag making workshops as a prize because I felt that it symbolised everything that I love to do - it's all about sharing a skill, looking, learning and SEEING what can be made from leather and having a long-lasting experience of making something tangible. Plus, who wouldn't want to go home with a wonderful leather handbag? The original intention was that it would be autioned off on the night, but in the end, it became part of their "gift tree" and a guest bought it for one of the SeeAbility staff members who really loves doing handicrafts and who really deserved it! So I'm thrilled to show you a photoograph of Miriam below who is proudly holding up her workshop voucher and I can't wait to meet her when she books in her session soon!

see ability bag making workshop prize winner

The SeeAbility Spectacular event was held on the 27th February at One Great George Street, Westminster and I am thrilled to say that it was a huge success.The Sparkling Gift Trees were particularly popular and contributed over £4,000 to the total sum raised of nearly £90,000 for the Children in Focus campaign.  St Leonards was thrilled to be some small part of that fundraising exercise in 2016. Why not offer your services as a volunteer or how about becoming a gift donator at one of their future events?

If you'd like to learn more about SeeAbility, and the work they do, as well as the residential homes they provide, around the South East please click on this link

Congratulations to everyone involved!