Blind military veterans from the US have headed to Wales to join national sight loss charity Blind Veterans UK for an exchange week…

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

Now in its eighth year, 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 the group are based at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno.

The veterans will engage in adaptive technology activities and sports for the blind including a day of driving buggies and hovercrafts at Hover Force. Other highlights will include a visit to Caernarfon Castle as well as taking on the longest and fastest zip wire in Europe at Zip World.

This year, the project will include a public “Sight loss as a consequence of traumatic brain injury and mental health implications” seminar at the University of Manchester. They will discuss veterans’ rehabilitation, eye trauma, Traumatic Brain Injuries vision conditions, and vision trauma research as a special Project Gemini initiative.

Guest speakers will include Colonel Robert A. Mazzoli MC, (Ret. Army), Director of Education, Training, Simulation at the DoD-V.A. Vision Centre of Excellence Washington DC.

Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), a legally blind veteran himself, who is accompanying the group as the trip coordinator, said: “By bringing together experts and blinded veterans from different countries, we can learn lessons from each other’s healthcare systems and veterans’ services and influence changes that best support blind veterans in each nation.

“The goal is the achievement of better care for blinded veterans and their families, ensuring that they receive the highest quality of care and support they so richly deserve.”

Project Gemini recently won the International Award at the prestigious Soldiering On Awards in recognition of outstanding achievements and comradeship demonstrated internationally by those which have supported the British Armed Forces Community.