Swaziland glasses

SightFirst Funding for Research

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With funds raised through Campaign SightFirst II, SightFirst is able to support new project areas aimed at providing “vision for all.” These include vision rehabilitation and education for those who are blind or have low vision, as well as vision research initiatives. While research is different from the traditional SightFirst strategies of service delivery and capacity building, it has the potential to improve these core program activities and enhance blindness prevention efforts worldwide.

During a recent SightFirst Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting, five grants were approved for research projects, totaling US$436,667:

Sightsavers Cameroon
“Yaounde Urban Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness with Diabetic Retinopathy Module”

Brien Holden Vision Institute
“Rapid Assessment of Refractive Error in Bogota, Colombia”

Brien Holden Vision Institute
“Survey to Determine Impact of Near Vision Correction Amongst Textile Factory Workers in KwaZulu, South Africa”SightFirst logo

Joslin Diabetes Center
“Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness with Diabetic Retinopathy Module in Region 3, Philippines”

University of Hyderabad
“Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness in the Maldives and Timor Leste”

SightFirst funds operational and evaluative public health research projects. Projects must relate to improving SightFirst programs by identifying needs and assessing program strategies, especially related to equity, capacity building and sustainability in the delivery of eye care. Expanding the monitoring and evaluation budgets of existing SightFirst projects are also considered.

For more information, contact sightfirstresearch@lionsclubs.org.

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Children's Dignity Week

Dignity and Joy to Children in Chicago

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The birthday celebration of a homeless child can often be disappointing. The Chicago Windy City Lions Club wanted to bring dignity and joy to 18 children living at the San Jose Obrero Mission by throwing them a birthday celebration during Children’s Dignity Week.

The Lions started off the birthday party by reading aloud a story called “Hooray for You! A Celebration of You-ness” by Marianne Richardson to encourage self-esteem and celebrate each child’s uniqueness. Each child received a copy of the book and a $15 Target gift card — giving the children the dignity of purchasing power, as the majority of their clothing and toys have been hand-me-downs or donations. Two-thirds of the 16 million children living in poverty in the U.S. do not own books, so the book they received at the event was most likely the first they have ever owned. Other activities included playing games, dancing and art projects.

Photo Credit: Carole Burke-Hallberg

Photo Credit: Carole Burke-Hallberg

The entire experience was very moving for the Lions, children and parents alike. The families were incredibly gracious and appreciative of the Lions’ hard work and dedication to bringing joy to their children’s lives.

Partnering with the Community

Working with local organizations can help make a bigger impact in your community. As you plan your Lions projects and Centennial Service Challenge events, contact organizations near you to see how you can work together.

The Chicago Windy City Lions worked with the San Jose Obrero Mission, which services families, women and men as they strive to secure permanent housing and improve their lives for the long-term.  They provide transitional housing for 120 days (including food, clothing and case management) to get residents back on their feet. The Lions also partnered with a professional DJ and face painter, who each donated their services, and a local bookstore that offered the gifted books at a discounted price.

For more photos of the event, visit the Chicago Windy City Lions Facebook page.


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A trained facilitator reads to children in Aswan, Egypt.

Fostering Literacy Among Children in Egypt

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Ancient Egyptians knew that writing and literacy were essential to society. Cultures that came much later pay tribute to their progress in written language: the word “paper” derives from the Egyptian word “papyrus.” But reading skills in the average Egyptian home today are substandard. Nearly nine in 10 Egyptian parents read only schoolbooks with their children, according to the Information and Decision Support Center in Egypt. Parents lack confidence in their own reading skills or simply do not appreciate the importance of critical reading to the development of language skills.

The Lions of Egypt, in partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network and the Om Habibeh Foundation (OHF), are working to foster literacy in children in Aswan. Combining OHF’s academic expertise with the financial support of a US$35,000 Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Standard grant, local Lions launched a “Reading for Children” project. The goal is to increase children’s access to books, improve parents’ capacity to support their children’s learning, strengthen interactions between children and parents and reinforce primary literacy skills.

Once local facilitators were trained, the process of equipping libraries within those community-based organizations began. To increase children’s access to books, OHF purchased a variety of books and interactive games. These organizations now host an extensive collection of books and early childhood development materials. OHF also provided child-accessible bookshelves and an assortment of arts and crafts supplies.

Facilitators also conducted home visits that provided mothers with a safe place to engage their children and take an active role in their children’s education. Facilitators explained the importance of reading to children and gave creative suggestions on using daily activities to enrich children’s language development.

OHF also hosted several reading camps during school breaks. Nearly 280 children participated, taking part in storytelling and educational activities. At the end of each camp, the children and facilitators marched through the streets, holding signs and distributing flyers to promote the importance of literacy. These marches contributed to a sense of community and increased awareness of the project.

In one year, the Reading for Children project positively impacted more than 900 mothers and more than 2,500 children throughout Aswan. The participating community-based organizations became safe, attractive spaces for mothers to interact with their children. The reading and play sessions not only increased language development for the participating children but also expanded mothers’ ability to participate in that development. The local Lions and their partners are making great progress fostering literacy in Egypt.

This article first appeared in the September 2015 issue of LION Magazine.

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Lions and Reading Is Fundamental

Lions Literacy Partnerships a Recipe for Success

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Today is International Literacy Day! We welcome guest bloggers Jennifer Moone, Director of Government Relations & Community Outreach at Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Ron McKinney, Past President of the Hamilton Lakes Lions Club, North Carolina.

Take two determined civic organizations like the Hamilton Lakes Lions Club and United Methodist Women (UMW) of Christ United Methodist Church, many dedicated individual community members, sprinkle in support from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), and the result? An incredible display of the impact that we can make in our communities when we unite. That’s exactly what we saw happen this past spring as our groups came together to make a difference for the students of Hampton Elementary School!

Hampton is located in the Cottage Grove Community, a historically impoverished area in Greensboro, North Carolina. The situation is often dire for low-income children during the summer months, where they can lose up to three months of learning without access to books and educational opportunities, and that learning gap continues to widen as the years go on.

What started as an effort by the UMW to help provide RIF books to students for their summer reading as well as RIF’s classroom book collections, and accompanying teaching guides for educators, grew beyond expectation. With a strong commitment to building children’s literacy skills, the Lions club stepped up next! They wanted to help give even more books to the kids so that each student was able to select eight books total to build their home libraries for the summer, along with bags filled with RIF’s summer reading activity sheets. Lions and UMW members visited the school to distribute the books and help send the students off for a summer filled with reading fun. The impact of this work grew further as the groups also coordinated food pantry donations, playground equipment, beautification of the campus by the Cub Scouts, and more.

It was remarkable to see what a difference our organizations can make when we pull together our resources and volunteers to serve our community. We saw beyond a doubt that allowing children to select and keep new books inspires them to read and they know we care when we spend time reading aloud with them.

We are proud of what we’ve achieved together and hope it might serve as inspiration today on International Literacy Day, as we know so many Lions around the world work to make a difference in their own backyards and help children develop a love of reading.

For more information on RIF including activities and fun, please visit rif.org. For more information on Lions literacy projects and the Reading Action Program, visit lionsclubs.org.

We’d love to hear more about how your Lions club is serving your local community in support of the Centennial Service Challenge using #LIONS100.

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LCIF logo

Lions in Nigeria Aid Cancer Patients

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One morning, as administrator Stella Agbogun made her rounds in the Radiotherapy Department at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Nigeria, she happened upon a young man comforting his weeping mother in the hallway.

They had traveled to Lagos from Cross River, a Nigerian state more than 400 miles away, so the woman could receive cancer treatment at LUTH. But without any money or relatives in Lagos, the pair had nowhere to stay. They were desperate and completely alone.

Agbogun, a Lion, knew something had to be done to help the family and those like them—who travel from far and wide for access to LUTH’s Radiotherapy Department but lack the resources to secure housing for themselves during treatment.

“They had nowhere to sleep,” says Agbogun. “They had no relations in Lagos, and they did not have enough money for their accommodation. I was moved by pity. After that incident, I made the decision to be a positive change, to create a better living environment for cancer patients.”

Agbogun, District 404 B governor then, saw an opportunity to serve her community and improve the lives of vulnerable individuals. She collaborated with LUTH and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to develop plans for Mercy Home, a housing facility for cancer patients at the hospital.

Agbogun worked both with the LUTH management team to finalize details and secure the space for Mercy Home and with Lion leaders to complete the project. With plans for 20 beds, Mercy Home would offer temporary accommodation for radiotherapy patients and their relatives who cannot afford accommodations in Lagos.

With the help of a US$75,000 Standard grant from LCIF, arrangements for the construction of Mercy Home were put in place. On a rainy day in July, behind the Radiotherapy Department at LUTH, Lions and local dignitaries gathered to break ground on the special facility that was years in the making.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Professor Akin Osibogun, the chief medical Director of LUTH, elatedly described how honored the hospital was to commission Mercy Home. The facility was a dream realized.

“LUTH’s management team sealed the entire deal by giving us this space, where Mercy Home stands,” Agbogun said at the ceremony. “They gave us easy access to the institution and were ready to render assistance and encouragement.”

Mercy Home now stands as a symbol of hope to people in some of the darkest times of their lives, as well as a reminder that wherever a need arises in the community, Lions will find a way to meet the challenge.

For information on Standard grants and how your Lions club can apply, visit lcif.org.

Mercy Home is a residence for low-income cancer patients in Lagos.

Mercy Home is a residence for low-income cancer patients in Lagos.

This article by Eric Margules first appeared in the July/August issue of LION Magazine.



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