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64 %
raised of £20,000 target
by 23 supporters
Merlin and Alex Arclight avatar
Merlin and Alex Arclight

Arclight Tandem Africa - Two Boys on a Bike for Sight

Training Eye workers as we pedal across Africa for University of St Andrews because fighting Preventable Blindness is a global issue

64 %
raised of £20,000 target
by 23 supporters
  • Team members: Merlin Hetherington and Alex McMaster
  • Event: Edinburgh Marathon Festival Full Marathon 2019, 26 May 2019

University of St Andrews

We support education and projects in order to enrich students, staff and communities.

Charity Registration No. SC013532


On World Sight Day, 11th October 2018, we set off on a tandem bike to cycle 12,000km across the African continent to Cape Town...

...we aimed to equip hundreds of health workers with a diagnostic tool. To help them in the fight against preventable blindness and deafness because:

80% of blindness and 50% of deafness is avoidable if diagnosed and prevented or treated. The Arclight is a gamechanger:



So far hundreds of people have been trained and hundreds of Arclights have been donated. 

The Arclight is a robust, compact, solar-powered ophthalmoscope and otoscope that has been shown to work as well as traditional devices but at a fraction of the cost. With a small amount of training, it can be used to diagnose the main causes of blindness and deafness that affect millions of people in low-income countries. As it is solar-powered and uses a patented LED, it does not require expensive and hard to find replacement parts such as batteries and bulbs.

We have given the Arclight for free and trained medical, nursing and optometry students in all the countries we have pedalled through. It only takes one hour to train 30 students to use the device. This provides the next generation of leaders with the tools needed to combat eye and ear disease.


So far we've covered some mammoth distances, up the Nile into Sudan and then across the Sahara into the steep hills of Ethiopia and on through Kenya and Tanzania. Unsupported and carrying all our own kit we have had nights in the isolation of the desert; tranquil school grounds; police stations and busy African cities. The trip has not been without problems and we decided to leave the tandem bike due to saddle pressure issues. A lot of walking ensued...

...After a few weeks of hauling our belongings by foot across the wild Masai Steppe we were saved by Elliptigo and Burley who provided us stand up 'running on wheels' bikes and trailers. And so the journey goes on!

Follow our progress on Insta / TW / FB(@tandemafrica ; @arclight-tandemafrica). You can check where we are on the tracking map on our website

If you can share us around - it really helps! Please.

So grateful to our family and friends for all the support they have given us in this endeavour. Thank you all so much. Big thank you to the Scientific Exploration Society; the University of St Andrews and the R&A among many many others. We've all achieved so much!


We return from Cape Town on the 24th of May (Alex's bday). Two days  later we will run the Edinburgh Marathon as a final push to raise more funds for Arclights. Watch our experiment to see how a cycle across Africa has prepared us (or not) for running a marathon! That will be us truly done in!


All donations now go entirely to funding the Arclight trainings we carry out i.e. the Arclight devices themselves and associated materials. Donations up to the £12k mark went into a mixed pot for Arclights and the expedition if need be. Money is held by the University of St Andrews.


The Arclight device can be used as an ophthalmoscope and otoscope in the UK. If you want to get hold of one for a colleague or a friend they will be available for purchase through the University of St Andrews website in August.