EASTENDERS star and Huntingdonshire resident Himesh Patel is using his rising fame to help promote the plight of blind people in developing countries.

The 20-year-old who plays newly-wed former student Tamwar Masood in the long-running soap has agreed to become an ambassador for charity Sightsavers.

The charity works to prevent blindness in more than 30 developing countries and has launched a £1million campaign to set up eye-restoring cataract surgeries in India.

Himesh, who still lives near Sawtry with his parents and sister, was keen to lend his support to the charity. Like his on-screen character, he too suffers from poor eyesight, and needs to wear contact lenses or glasses.

He said: "I have got quite bad eyesight. It is nothing compared to being completely blind. I can't imagine what it must be like for those who don't have any sight.

"Sightsavers helps people in India and all around the world. It is about getting those resources to them and to raise enough money to help them."

A member of Cambridge-based Young Actors Company, Himesh joined Eastenders four years ago. At the time he had no TV experience and had only performed in school plays.

Like Tamwar, he is the son of a postmaster, and was a Hunts Post delivery boy. Though since joining the programme Tamwar's father has since lost the post office side of his business, but continues to run the shop.

The parallels with his on-screen family end there however, according to Himesh.

"There are not too many similarities, but that is what acting is. You have got to live a completely different life."

Himesh, says working alongside Nina Wadia, who plays Tamwar's mother Zanaib Masood, Ntin Guarata, who plays his father Masood Anwar, and the other EastEnders cast members has been invaluable.

"When I started I absorbed all the information from all the good actors and all the good experiences. It is a good learning stage to start on.

"We do 22 scenes a day and have so many lines to learn. It prepares you for everything else. Working on films is a lot slower - there you might just do a scene a day. The cast have become a second family now, they are not only my on-screen family."

During Himesh's time on the soap his character has developed from a geeky teenager under his parents' rule to a young husband with his own business.

Though Himesh says it has been good "living that journey", his growing role has meant the young actor gets recognised more frequently.

"Sometimes it can be a bit overbearing. If you make the effort to try and live as normal a life as you can. There is a certain amount of privacy that you lose. But I tend to keep myself to myself."

INFORMATION: To find out more about Sightsavers go to www.sightsavers.org. You can also follow them on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/visionlndia or join the facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/sightsaversUK