Strictly star to make VAO appeal

Seeing more clearly at school in Zambia thanks to VAO

Professional dancer Oti Mabuse will present a BBC Radio 4 charity appeal on behalf of Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) on Sunday 4 October.

The appeal will be repeated on World Sight Day on Thursday 8 October, putting eye health in the spotlight nationally.

The star of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing recalls receiving her first pair of glasses as a child, saying: “When I put them on for the first time, suddenly the world came into focus.” However, recognising that that for millions of children affected by poverty in countries around the world, access to good quality eyecare and glasses is not so easy, Oti chose to present a national radio appeal with VAO.

Around 80 per cent of what a child learns is processed through their sight, yet 12 million children worldwide struggle to learn because they struggle to see, the charity stated. This can go on to affect their mental health and well being.

VAO currently works in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zambia, where eye health services can be limited. A children’s eye health programme the charity supported in Ethiopia a few years ago resulted in 73 per cent of children improving their school grades after receiving glasses.

Now, in the run up to World Sight Day, the charity is appealing for funds so they can reach even more children.

In the appeal, Oti talks about her own experiences with poor eyesight and glasses before presenting the story of Catherine, a school girl in Zambia who was at risk of falling behind in school until she received an eye examination and glasses. Now, Catherine is determined to go to university and become a doctor in Zambia.

Oti spent much of her childhood in South Africa, and recognises how getting her own glasses helped her in life. “They have given me the confidence to achieve all my goals and dreams…and I would love that for more people,” she said.

Listeners can tune into BBC Radio 4 to hear the appeal at 07.54 and 21.25 on Sunday 4 October – and once more on Thursday 8 October at 15.27. The appeal will be available to listen to again on the BBC Radio 4 Appeal website after broadcast.