Blind veterans exchange helps build bridges

1 January 2016 13:03

Blind military veterans from the US and South Africa will head to Britain to join Blind Veterans UK, for an exchange week beginning on Sunday (31/05).

Members of the US organisation the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will be visiting Britain through an exchange programme between the Association and Blind Veterans UK called Project Gemini.

The BVA's week long schedule of activities and events will see all the veterans taking on blind cricket and wake boarding as well as visiting Buckingham Palace.

Among the US veterans attending is Sgt. Adam Roland. Adam was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq in 2011. He lost his sight due to retinal detachment but has since gone on to become an award winning horse rider in rodeo competitions in Arizona.

Lance Corporal Chris Nowell, who was blinded by a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on duty in Afghanistan in 2007, will be one of the British veterans taking part. Chris will also be making use of his talent for photography throughout the week.

Since he began receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2008 Chris has built up an incredible portfolio, including working as a match photographer for Sheffield United.

Project Gemini enables Blind Veterans UK and the BVA to share experiences and knowledge about matters such as blind rehabilitation and readjustment training, vision research and adaptive technology for the blind. This year, two blind veterans from South Africa's St. Dunstan's Association also joined the project.

Dr. Tom Zampieri of the BVA says: "This week is so important because it gives blind US, UK and South African veterans the chance to learn from each other.

"We learn about strategies for coming to terms with sight loss, lessons from the American, British and South African healthcare systems and veterans' services, and how all of our organisations can best support blind veterans in our three nations.

"This year's exchange is particularly special as it coincides with the 100th anniversary of Blind Veterans UK. The Project Gemini group will be joining thousands of other blind veterans at a special centenary garden party for the charity at Buckingham Palace."

British blind veteran Colin Williamson says: "Blind Veterans UK is very proud to be welcoming comrades from around the world in our centenary year.

"This week will be fun but what it's really about is ex-Service men from different countries coming together to share experiences and support each other."

Project Gemini has been made possible due to a donation from Revision Military who specialise in producing protective solutions for soldiers. They have recently signed a contract to provide ballistic protective eyewear as well as head and face protection for the British Army. 

Alex Hooper, Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development at Revision says: "Revision, a company that designs, develops and delivers protective solutions for soldiers around the world, was built upon its foundation as a key provider of ballistic eye protection whether in spectacle or goggle format. Just as we strive to provide the very best protection for our troops, we also feel obligated to support those who have been injured in the line of duty."

"In our view, with all of the good work that Blind Veterans UK does to help with lifelong practical and emotional support for veterans who have lost their sight, this is the right organisation for Revision to endorse, especially in the charity's centenary year."

Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan's) was founded in 1915 and the charity's initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War I. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War II to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan. For 100 years, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision impaired veterans. Find out more at

BVA traces its earliest beginnings to March 28, 1945 when a group of war-blinded servicemen met at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.