We are incredibly proud that Harry Heber has received the 'Edwards Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Volunteering' award for volunteering. Over the last 20 years, the former optician and Kindertransport refugee has made up more than 60,000 pairs of prescription glasses for vulnerable Jewish people around the world and given approximately 8,500 hours of voluntary service. Harry was honoured at the JVN Celebration of Volunteering Awards 2019, cheered on by World Jewish Relief staff, family and friends.
Harry has been a volunteer at World Jewish Relief for more than 20 years after discovering how the organisation helped rescue him and his family from Nazi-Europe. Harry came to Britain on the Kindertransport, aged 7, with his sister Ruth, aged 10 – with the help of The Central British Fund (now known as World Jewish Relief). It continued to support them both and also helped bring their parents to Britain before war broke out.
Having qualified and worked as an optician, Harry has run World Jewish Relief’s Optical Programme since 1998 in an entirely voluntary capacity. His work is an essential part of the care provided by World Jewish Relief to older Jewish people, primarily in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
Harry has helped people in desperate need in 15 countries who couldn't afford to buy their own prescription glasses. Many of them had become isolated and debilitated by not having a pair of suitable glasses – unable to read, perform basic tasks in their home or venture outside safely. Harry has restored their sight, enabling them to regain their independence. In Belarus, many recipients of Harry’s glasses are people who were directly affected by the nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.
Paul Anticoni, World Jewish Relief’s Chief Executive says: “We are incredibly proud of Harry and humbled by his dedication to ensuring thousands of older Jewish people have received the gift of sight. Without these glasses, they would be leading dark, lonely and confused lives. He not only ensures they receive the most appropriate glasses but goes above and beyond to secure them for free, minimising costs to World Jewish Relief. This has enabled us to spend much needed funds on providing these people with food, fuel to heat their homes, medication and homecare as well.”
Harry believes volunteering is so much more than something to keep an old man busy. If it wasn’t for World Jewish Relief 80 years ago, he wouldn’t be here, so dispensing glasses is his way of giving something back. Harry says “I saw an opportunity to help and to give something back and I would recommend that to everyone – it gives great satisfaction to know you’re helping people in a much worse situation”.
HOW HARRY’S OPTICAL PROGRAMME WORKS?
Working with World Jewish Relief’s partner agencies throughout Eastern Europe, Harry encourages clients to have a standard eye test and examination with a qualified optician or optometrist. The prescription is then sent to Harry in our London office where he makes up the glasses with the correct lenses before arranging final shipping back to the partner to deliver to the client. Harry has persuaded suppliers to donate frames and lenses at no or low cost to World Jewish Relief.
You can read more about Harry's story here.