A pioneering project supporting Black Africans with visual impairment in Glasgow has won renewed funding until 2019, and now plans to extend its reach into the wider Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area.
The You Care, Eye Care project, run by RNIB Scotland, began in 2014 and has provided free practical support to 15 men and women aged 25 and over, identifying their individual eyecare and other needs.
The project has already won praise for its work in helping clients to self-manage their eye conditions.
One client, Kristina, has the condition keratokonus, which weakens and thins the cornea in the eye causing blurred vision. "Before the group started I had lived in Glasgow with sight impairment for nearly eight years with no support," she said. "It's very good to have one-to-one help and advice on where to get help and, most importantly, to have a chat with someone who faces the same challenges as you."
Project officer Satya Dunning said: "Losing your sight can be extremely traumatic for anyone. But people in this group experience additional barriers, including cultural misunderstanding, few accessible social networks, and discriminatory attitudes, especially towards asylum seekers and refugees. For some, these hurdles have lead to significant exclusion which has made it more difficult for them to take control of their life and health."
Glaucoma is the most common cause of blindness in the UK's African and Caribbean populations. West Africans, in particular, have a 14 per cent prevalence to glaucoma (compared to two per cent in the white population). People of African origin also have a stronger prevalence to diabetes, another leading cause of sight loss.
Ms Dunning said the renewed funding would allow the project to extend its reach to younger clients, and expand across the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area. "The black African population tends to be widely dispersed, particularly in Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire," she said.
"We have also heard of eye clinics that are seeing patients in their teens with significant sight-threatening symptoms. We will, therefore, extend the age-range of the project to include those over 18."
Over the next three years, You Care, Eye Care will also help clients to work towards other non-health goals such as employability, social integration and effective self-management of their health.
Hani from Eritrea, who has the condition nystagmus, said: "Before receiving support from the project, I thought I was a weak person. I was completely isolated. But as soon as I joined the group, I started to realise I can do things. Yes I have disabilities, but I can still do things. I have more self esteem. Shakespeare said: do something in your life that you can take to your grave."
The You Care, Eye Care project is funded by Alliance Scotland under the Self Management Initiative. For further information about the project, contact Satya Dunning at [email protected].