Orbis UK Ambassadors

We are very lucky to have some amazing individuals as our Ambassadors, from volunteers on our projects to business leaders, from ex-pilots to journalists.

And what do they all have in common? An unrivalled passion for Orbis. They give their time, use their expertise, and open up their networks to help us achieve our mission to reduce avoidable blindness worldwide. Click on their names below to discover more about these incredible individuals.

Sunil Ruia – Managing Director Belledorm

"I read the Sunday Times article in March 99 where I was moved to tears. My family has a genetic disorder called RP, two of my brothers are now blind. So I often wonder if it was me who was blind, how would I cope. Both Vimal and Alok cope admirably and in fact they are an inspiration to me."

"So I wrote to Orbis to want to offer my support, and 22 years later I am in awe of the gift of sight given to many people across the globe. My family are wholeheartedly behind the wonderful work that Orbis does."

Mary Killen - Journalist

Mary Killen has been a journalist since 1984.  She has had columns in publications such as Tatler, the Sunday Telegraph, the Times and is currently a weekly columnist in The Spectator and a monthly columnist in The Lady. She also appears on Channel 4’s Gogglebox with her husband Giles.  She supports Orbis because "it seems to deliver the most overwhelming difference to lives for the least amount of money. It is by far the most rewarding activity I have ever been involved with."

Photo credit: Elizabeth Vickers

Tom Davies – Eye wear designer

Early in his career, Davies relocated to Hong Kong where he had his pick of product design roles. It was here that he discovered a passion for eyewear when he realised just how life-changing good design could be to customers all over the world.

When Davies founded his eponymous eyewear brand in 2002, he had just returned to London as he was fed up of the way his designs were produced to standard fits and failing their wearers. Standardised facial features don’t exist, so why should standardised sizing?

Having designed bespoke frames for friends and family he decided to return to London and launch his brand that builds on the made-to-measure principles of couture. In 2013, Davies premiered his bespoke opticians concept with his first boutique in Sloane Square, offering his now signature tailor-made diagnostic service as well as bespoke lens and frame fittings.

In 2017, Tom Davies celebrated 15 years since the launch of his bespoke eyewear service, along with the opening of his new London factory. Now with five boutiques in London and an impressive roster of international stockists, Davies has built an impressive customer base of stylish celebrities, sports personalities and discerning individuals. In 2018 Tom was recognised as one of London’s most influential people in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list.

"Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime." For me, this is what Orbis is but for vision. I'd love to help one person at a time but actually, by supporting Orbis the local communities who need the help most can learn to help themselves.  Every penny donated has a multiplying effect as the Flying Eye Hospital they operate is also a fully-accredited teaching hospital. Everywhere Orbis works, it leaves lasting change by training, educating and distributing knowledge and inspiring local teams to fight avoidable blindness in their own communities.”

Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards CBE AFC FRAeS FCIM RAF (Ret’d)

Rick was educated in South Africa from where he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1965. He spent over 30 years in the RAF and retired as an Air Commodore in 1999.

The son of a Battle of Britain pilot, his flying career has been spent mainly on fighters and he has over 1000 hours on each of the Lightning, Phantom, Tornado and Gnat. He led the flypast for the Queens 60th Birthday and also the opening of the 1986 Commonwealth Games. On leaving full-time service with the RAF, Rick first joined General Dynamics UK as Director of Government Relations/Military Advisors and from 2004 -07 he was Managing Director of Vector Flying Training Services. 

Rick was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1987, and appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1993, he is a Past Master of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots. His acclaimed autobiography ‘Rate of Climb’ was published in April 2020.  Rick has been an active supporter of Orbis for more than 17 years, He supports Orbis because of the global connections made possible through the generosity of others, and the immense contribution and achievements of all those involved with Orbis. These factors identify Orbis as a very special charity.  

Polly Braden - Documentary Photographer

Polly Braden is a documentary photographer whose work features an ongoing conversation between the people she photographs and the environment in which they find themselves. Highlighting the small, often unconscious gestures of her subjects, Polly particularly enjoys long-term, in depth collaborations that in turn lends her photographs a unique, quiet intimacy.

Polly has produced a large body of work that includes not only solo exhibitions and magazine features, but most recently four books: Adventures in the Lea Valley (Hoxton Mini Press, 2016), Great Interactions: Life with Learning Disabilities and Autism (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2016), Out of the Shadows: The Untold Story of People with Autism or Learning Disabilities (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2018) alongside writer Sally Williams, and London’s Square Mile: A Secret City (Hoxton Mini Press, 2019.) with writing by David Kynaston. Polly has had a passion for Orbis and our work for many years and has visited our projects in Ethiopia, Ghana and Bangladesh.

“In 2003 I travelled to Ethiopia for Orbis. This was the first of several trips over the years. What struck me then and has continued to, is how Orbis builds relationships with local leaders, ophthalmologists and hospitals and works in long term partnerships to teach and learn in each country they work.”

Mr Brian Little - Consultant Ophthalmologist and Orbis UK Volunteer

Mr Brian Little (BSc, MA, DO, FRCS, FRCOphth) worked as a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital until 2018, where he was Training Director of their Cataract Service. Brian has been an Orbis medical volunteer since 1996. Over the past 25 years he has travelled with the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital training doctors and nurses in countries including Bangladesh, Peru, Myanmar, Philippines, Jamaica and Ethiopia.

“Volunteering with Orbis is a unique experience. Not only are you surrounded by experts in your field from across the globe delivering vital surgeries and treatments, but you get to train local eye care workers on home soil. The enduring impact that this has on a community can be felt within a few months but persists for many years afterwards, and the effect can be permanent. As an experienced surgeon there is nothing more satisfying than being able to transfer your skills to enthusiastic young trainees, who would otherwise not receive training, and then see them tangibly develop over such a short time. Through their continued development as surgeons and trainers in their own countries, you can appreciate how much impact Orbis has on communities."

“Orbis is leading the way in its delivery of quality training, using telemedicine technology and remote learning to develop the next generation of eye health workers in the fight against preventable blindness. I am really delighted to be part of such an amazing organisation that effects such positive, important and lasting change on people’s lives.”

Ann-Marie Ablett - Theatre Practitioner Nurse and Orbis UK Volunteer

Ann-Marie Ablett is a Theatre Practitioner Nurse and has been an Orbis Ambassador for 12 years. She has volunteered with Orbis for 18 years, using her annual leave to train nurses around the world. Ann-Marie has been on over 30 assignments to 15 low-to-middle income countries and has treated more than 1,000 patients. In 2014 she was awarded the Royal College of Nursing in Wales Humanitarian Award and has spoken about her experiences in front of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh.

“Working as a nurse is an incredibly rewarding vocation. In my many years working with Orbis around the world, I have been lucky enough to help hundreds of men, women and children to see again. That moment, right after a life-changing operation is truly unforgettable. To know that you have been part of a team changing someone’s life with a simple and cost-effective surgery, and that the nurse performing it was trained by you, is really humbling. I am so proud to be part of the Orbis family.”

Dr Ian Fleming - Consultant Anaesthetist and Orbis UK Volunteer

Ian Fleming is a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital and has been an Orbis volunteer since 2005. Since he began his journey with us, he has used his annual leave to train anaesthetists on 18 programmes, in 12 countries including Syria, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal, where he has helped hundreds of children and adults to see again, and trained hundreds more doctors to do the same.

Ian was made an ambassador in 2017 in recognition of his dedication to Orbis, both on programmes and delivering public speeches to raise awareness of avoidable blindness.

“Everything takes longer on an Orbis programme because they are teaching programmes. Everyone is doubled up. I’m teaching, so are the surgeons and the nurses. Somewhere else in the hospital, Orbis Biomedical engineers are teaching their local counterparts how to repair and maintain the equipment - equally important members of the Orbis “family”, without whom it just wouldn’t work. The fact that Orbis recognises this, in its aim to eradicate preventable blindness worldwide, that you need to support every part of the ophthalmic pathway is why I am still here, so many years on, and will continue volunteering with them.”

Dr Ian Fleming training Vietnamese clinicians, all dressed in scrubs
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