Our 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Saturday, April 11 in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin. As a member-led organisation we hold an AGM every year to present the previous year’s accounts to members and elect a board of directors. The AGM is also an opportunity to update people about our activities throughout the year and plans for the year ahead. The was a big attendance at this year’s meeting and it was fantastic to meet so many current and new members who are eager to get involved in the work of Fighting Blindness.
Chief Executive Avril Daly spoke about some of the important developments in 2014 and some of the goals of the organisation for 2015. Avril also spoke about the National Vision Coalition, a multi stakeholder group working to highlight the need for a dedicated strategy for vision healthcare services in Ireland. The motion for a National Vision Strategy received cross party support in the Dáil and Seanad in 2014 and Avril asked everyone to help bring this issue to their local politicians, especially in the run up to the next general election. We will provide more information about this in the coming months.
Head of Fundraising Tony Ward gave an overview of how the research, counselling and advocacy work of Fighting Blindness is funded. He explained that 90% of the organisation’s funding every year must be raised through donations from the public or corporate donations and thanked everyone for their generosity. He asked people to keep an open mind about fundraising opportunities and welcomed people to come forward and share ideas with the fundraising team.
John Delany, Senior Counselling Manager at the Insight Counselling Service spoke about the isolation that can come with vision impairment and encouraged people to interact with the expanding service for support. He also highlighted the recently established Telephone Counselling Service for people who are not in a position to attend the centre.
Caitríona Dunne, Communications and Advocacy Executive, gave an overview of the work being done to raise awareness about Fighting Blindness and about vision impairment through education and outreach activities. She also explained the many opportunities for people to get involved with the organisation.
Research Manager Dr Maria Meehan spoke about the global perspective of Fighting Blindness research and gave examples of how initial seed funding by Fighting Blindness over many years, laid the foundation for larger research projects and helped attract sizable funding to further the search for therapies. Maria spoke about new Fighting Blindness in Dublin and Belfast and other plans for 2015. She then introduced Dr Paul Kenna, consultant ophthalmologist and senior clinical researcher, and Dr Ena Prosser, Fighting Blindness board member and partner in Fountain Healthcare Partners, for a discussion about current research (pictured left). Paul gave an update on the Target 5000 project and plans to inform all participants about their current status within the project. Ena explained the relevance of Target 5000 internationally and why it is so important for future therapies. There were a number of questions from people in attendance and an active discussion with the panel.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of the Anne Byrne Memorial Award to Debbie O’Connor from Meelick, Co Clare (pictured below). Debbie has organised countless events for Fighting Blindness over the last couple of years, raising awareness about the organisation and sight loss throughout her local community. She has also raised vital funds for research into treatments and cures for blindness during this time. She is a worthy winner of the award and is a fantastic example of what true volunteerism is all about.