Arclight Tandem Africa

A project by: Alex McMaster, Merlin Hetherington


WE RAISED £12,145

from 69 donors

This project received pledges on Thu 28 Feb 2019
Thank you for all support so far! We continue to fundraise to reach our top target ....

As we finish our journey through Africa we return to the UK to take part in the Edinburgh Marathon so that we can continue to fundraise to reach our top target for arclight. Thank you for your support and please continue to share our message and donate through our newly live project....

Two boys on a bike for sight


The project

We are two students from the University of St Andrews undertaking a 10,000km tandem-bike expedition from Cairo to Cape Town across the African continent.

Merlin Hetherington is a third year Medical student and Alex McMaster is a third year Biology and Geography student.

Our objective is to distribute the ground-breaking Arclight medical device, pioneered in St Andrews, to equip health workers in the fight against preventable blindness and deafness.

The Arclight is an innovative, pocket-sized ophthalmoscope and otoscope that works as well as conventional medical equipment, but is produced at a fraction of the cost. The solar-powered device is designed to meet the needs of low-income countries and can be used by any trained health worker to look into the eye and diagnose leading causes of blindness including cataract, trachoma, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, all of which are easily treatable if diagnosed early.

We pedal out from Cairo on World Sight Day (11 October 2018), cycle through 11 countries arriving in Cape Town in May 2019. Many nights we will be camping under the stars in the bush, while we will spend others amongst the noise of some of Africa’s largest cities. When cycling we will need to cover 150km a day and we have prearranged training sessions in each country.

Our goal is to deliver 2000 Arclights to local health workers for free and train them in its use.

Before we go, we  are meeting key collaborators at the annual conference of the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, Central and South Africa (COECSA) in Addis Ababa, where Merlin will present his dissertation on Arclight training resources.

Our project is supported by the University of St Andrews R&A Travel Scholarship, the Scientific Exploration Society (SES), the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Saints Sport and the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews.

Why should you support our project?

80% of blindness and 50% of deafness can be prevented if diagnosed early and treated (WHO).

Treatment for eye diseases in low-income countries currently tends to be centralised in large urban hospitals. We need to empower health workers in rural areas to diagnose and refer eye diseases early - before they become life or sight-threatening.

Like immunisation, sight- and hearing-preserving interventions are one of public health’s ‘best buys’, generating a profound impact on poverty reduction by enabling people to remain economically and socially productive.

Where will your money go?

  • Funding additional Arclight devices.
  • Raising awareness and spreading the message - we would like to make a short film to raise the profile of preventable blindness and showcase the application of technological innovation in prioritising the needs of low-income countries.
  • Many of the costs of the expedition itself, such as the bike, are covered by the University and the SES, but maintaining the equipment and ensuring our safety and security is crucial to the success of the project.
  • Additional countries - the more donations we receive, the greater the potential to pedal further!


  • £6,000 will cover all remaining trip costs
  • £11,000 will cover all the remaining trip costs and secure an additional 1,000 Arclight devices
  • £16,000 will cover all the remaining trip costs and secure an additional 2,000 Arclight devices
  • £20,000 + will cover all the remaining trip costs, 2,000 Arclight devices and a budget towards a short film.

Follow us

Facebook: ArclightTandem Africa

Twitter: @tandemafrica

Instagram: tandemafrica

Our website

Please donate and support us!

With just two months until our departure, the funding we can gather over the coming weeks will dictate the distance we can go and the number of Arclights we distribute. We hope you feel motivated to help us succeed! Please share this page – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, phone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog – with anyone you think would support us.

There can never be too many donations! Donations received over and above our maximum target will stay within the Arclight project, in the School of Medicine, and help to continue funding this amazing project for future years.

Thank you for your support!