The exchange between the two groups is part of BVA’s Project Gemini initiative, an outgrowth of its Operation Peer Support program that encourages mentoring and role modeling for veterans who are adjusting to blindness and family members who must also make adjustments in their lives.
Project Gemini is a joint effort of Blind Veterans UK of London, England, and BVA, which is headquartered in Washington, DC. The first Project Gemini exchange occurred in May 2011, when American blinded veterans, traveled to England for a six-day educational exchange to share knowledge, insights, and friendship with their British comrades. The highly successful exchange resulted in plans for a continuing exchange program between the two organizations.
Operation Peer Support, which began in 2006, brings together veterans of recent conflicts with those who have lost their sight in earlier wars. The objective of the program is to provide veterans who have recently lost their sight with opportunities to interact with men and women who have led happy and prosperous lives despite their blindness and who can serve as role models. The exchange with veterans from the UK dates back to 2008 when BVA invited three blinded British service members to attend its 63rd National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona.
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 shortly after the outbreak of World War I. BVA traces its beginnings to a meeting of a group of 118 war-blinded servicemen on March 28, 1945, at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.