The World Health Organization estimates that more than 150 million people suffer from blurred vision due to uncorrected refractive errors, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. The inability to see clearly can prevent children from learning in school, adults from finding work or staying employed, and older adults from living independently. Often, a simple pair of eyeglasses can bring the world into focus, but a lack of access to basic care prevents many people in developing nations from getting the treatment they need. Cost is also an issue; in a developing country a pair of glasses may cost as much as a month’s wages.
However, with the help of Lions around the world and the Recycle for Sight program, Lions Clubs International is bringing clear vision to millions, one pair of glasses at a time.
Through Recycle for Sight, Lions collect new and gently used eyeglasses and sunglasses in collection bins at a variety of locations in their communities including libraries, doctors’ offices, schools, sidewalks, banks and retail stores. The glasses are then shipped to the nearest Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center, where volunteers sort the glasses, clean them and determine their prescription strength. After carefully packaging the refurbished spectacles, Lions store them until they can be distributed, usually through humanitarian missions to developing nations.
Lion volunteers and eye care professionals screen thousands of children and adults during sight missions, providing them—free of charge—with prescription lenses, frames and ultimately a better quality of life. Lions also provide recycled glasses to nonprofit organizations focused on eye care, as well as to optometry college groups, religious organizations and military assistance groups, which also distribute to people in need.
Eyeglass recycling, a popular activity for Lions around the world, dates back to the 1930s. Similar to today, Lions gathered glasses in their communities processed and provided them to those most in need. For example, in the early 1960s, the Hayes & Harlington Lions clubs in England collected more than 20,000 pairs of glasses. Knowing of the need in India, they gave them to a Lions eye hospital in India, where they were processed and provided to local people.
In 1994, Lions Clubs turned their longtime efforts into an official program under the name Recycle for Sight. With a common identity and common format, the program has continued to expand and enable more people to see clearly.
Each year, Lions collect about 30 million pairs of glasses. Clubs in Australia and Japan annually send 500,000 pairs of glasses to six recycling centers in Australia. Over the past decade, more than 3.5 million pairs of eyeglasses from these centers have been shipped to locations including India, the Middle East and the smallest islands in Indonesia. By involving people from local correctional facilities, several of the centers are fostering rehabilitation by teaching skills that the inmates can use after they leave prison.
In 2013, Tokyo Sangenjaya Lions Club partnered with a national retailer to collect glasses for Australia’s recycling centers in 2013. “Seeing Lions work in packaging these eyeglass, I realize how much we consume and throw away that is still in usable or even perfect condition,” said one local businessman. “These eyeglasses will change someone’s life.”
In another part of the world, a 94-year-old man in Honduras cried, “Thank you!” after receiving a pair of Lions recycled glasses. “I can now read my Bible—the first time in 15 years.”
Many people are involved in collecting, processing and distributing recycled eyeglasses, including people who decide to donate their used eyeglasses, clubs that collect and send glasses to a Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center, volunteers who process and ship the glasses, and volunteers who organize and participate in mission distributions. The very positive result is that the quality of life is improved for people who receive this gift of sight.
View the full collection of Touchstone Stories on Lions100.org!
In the February LION Magazine, find out how our fabulous 99th international convention city in Japan will be a gateway to fun and fellowship for Lions, learn how a blind photographer captures what others miss and read about clubs that get anything but conventional when serving their communities.
Also in this issue:
In the Digital LION, watch videos commemorating Melvin Jones’ birthday this month, learn about the Digital LION Featured Club and see the Higher Key Award recipients.
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In 1959, the Lions Clubs of Oregon (Multiple District 36) established the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation (OLSHF) in order to provide sight and hearing assistance throughout the state. Through their statewide network of partners and over 90 eye and ear care providers, OLSHF is able to provide free or substantially reduced rates for eye and ear care to 75,000 people every year.
Lions Eyeglass Assistance Program’s (LEAP) provides eyeglasses through a variety of channels including vouchers for free care. Other services include eye and ear screening and treatment provision and even surgery. OLSHF also operates a statewide mobile health screening vehicle for remote areas which includes a pediatric low vision clinic. Every person served is from a household at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.
The Lions motto is “We Serve!” Each day, Lions around the world are making an impact in the lives of people in their communities, and the Lions of MD 36 are a prime example of that. With the help of a SightFirst grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), OLSHF continues to reach those most in need of eye care services, like Jackie.
“My first pair of real glasses at 66! This is the best Christmas present ever! Thank you so much for helping me!” Jackie was so grateful for the kindness she received that she cried. Tracy Brown, the optical program administrator who helped her, cried too.
Nicole Mandarano, development director of OLHSF expressed her gratitude as well.”Thank you, LCIF, for your ongoing support of our lab!”
Judging for the 2015-16 Lions International Peace Poster Contest, “Share Peace,” is being held today at Columbia College Chicago. Thirty-two members and leaders of the local youth outreach and art community will be judging 129 posters from 65 countries, created by children ages 11 to 13. Posters receive scores based on originality, artistic merit and expression of theme, with one grand prize winner and 23 merit award winners chosen.
The winner of the Peace Poster Contest, as well as the winner of the Lions International Essay Contest, will be announced at this year’s Lions Day with the United Nations in New York on March 12, 2016. There is still to register for this event to see the unveiling of the winning poster and meet with other Lions and UN representatives to discuss the theme “Gender Equality and Peace.”
Visit the Club Supplies Store and search for “Peace Poster Kit” to purchase a kit and sponsor a 2016-17 contest, “A Celebration of Peace.”
Large portions of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are currently being struck by the worst flooding the region has seen in 50 years. Paraguay is in a state of emergency and 130,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has awarded a US$200,000 Major Catastrophe grant. Major Catastrophe grants are awarded for long-term reconstruction after significant disasters and provide substantial funds for catastrophes with major international impact, such as the Nepal earthquake and the typhoon in the Philippines. Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s Disaster Relief fund to support the flood victims in Paraguay.
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