Erna Giesbrecht, a 54-year-old schoolteacher from Citrus Heights, California, USA, struggled with a severe hearing impairment since birth. When she was seven years old, her older brother, who had the same birth defect, was killed in a train/truck collision when he didn’t hear a train coming. At age 21, Giesbrecht was dismissed from nursing school because of her disability. As a fifth-grade teacher, Giesbrecht lived as frugally as possible to afford her hearing aid. She also had little choice but to wear the aid well past its recommended normal lifespan of five years.
Giesbrecht’s luck changed when the father of one of her students told her about the Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project (AHAP). Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project makes hearing aids accessible to people who cannot afford them without assistance. Nearly 7 million Americans who need hearing aids—23 percent of all Americans with hearing loss—cannot afford them. The average price for one hearing aid in the U.S. is $2,500 and most individuals need two aids. The majority of insurance companies do not cover hearing aids so the expenses have to be covered by the individuals or their families. Through partnerships and the great work of Lions, Lions Clubs International Foundation has made such a basic need as hearing possible for thousands of people.
“I have worn hearing aids since I was seven, and I have never heard better,” Giesbrecht said. She’s finally able to fully take charge of her classroom. “I can actually hear whispering for the first time in my life. My fifth-graders can’t ‘get away’ with as much nonsense since I can hear them better,” she said with a smile.
From LCIF: Our Impact Story Archives
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Hundreds of boxes of food items are collected by the Lions and Leos in Argentina. While the items are sorted, families gather inside the neighborhood center looking forward to receiving food for their children. The issue of Hunger is common in low-income communities, but the Lions hope to change that.
Check out the video above to see how the Lions and Leos of Argentina are fighting against malnutrition in their community. You can watch the entire October Lions Quarterly on the Lions News Network.
Taoyuan Chern Uei Lions Club from District 300-G2 Taiwan organized a “Relieving the Hunger” project for the elderly in their community. The Lions purchased food items and delivered these bags of groceries to seniors living alone.
Has your club recently planned a hunger project in your area? Don’t forget to record your club’s activities to MyLCI. Help us reach our goal of serving 100 million people by 2017 through participation is similar projects, such as sponsoring a food drive for your local food pantry, establishing a community garden and delivering food baskets to families in need.
What other hunger projects have you participated in?
Lions remain active in the fight against onchocerciasis, and international efforts to eliminate the disease have made significant advances in the last year.
International Second Vice President Bob Corlew and a delegation of international Lions leadership traveled to Mexico City in November to participate in the XXIV InterAmerican Conference on Onchocerciasis (IACO), an annual meeting for partners of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) to celebrate achievements in the elimination of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, and to discuss potential solutions to remaining challenges.
Mexico has now eliminated disease transmission and completed the post-treatment surveillance period. Officials have submitted its dossier to the World Health Organization (WHO) for disease elimination verification. If confirmed, Mexico will become the third country in the region to receive verification of elimination of onchocerciasis. The government of Guatemala also is preparing to start the official process to request confirmation from WHO. In 2013, Colombia became the first country confirmed by WHO as free of onchocerciasis, and Ecuador in September became the second country to receive confirmation.
While at the conference in Mexico City, Corlew and other Lion leaders met with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a Lion, and Mary Anne Peters, CEO of The Carter Center and a former ambassador, to discuss the ongoing partnership between Lions and The Carter Center, which began in 1999.
“We are making huge strides toward halting onchocerciasis,” says Corlew. “Thanks to the work of our partners and the generosity of our Lions, we are preventing blindness and creating a future free from this debilitating disease.”
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic infection that causes extreme itching and eye lesions, and may lead to disfiguring skin diseases, low vision and irreversible blindness. Transmission of onchocerciasis in the Americas now continues only in the border region between Venezuela and Brazil among the Yanomami population. Interrupting onchocerciasis transmission in this region poses a significant challenge because the Yanomami people are migratory and live deep in the Amazon rainforest.
During the IACO conference, the ministries of health of Venezuela and Brazil committed to working together with The Carter Center, OEPA and other partners to eliminate onchocerciasis from this region by 2019. The Carlos Slim Foundation donated US$6.8 million to OEPA to support elimination efforts among the Yanomami people.
Since the Lions-Carter Center partnership began, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has provided US$6.3 million to Latin America via The Carter Center for onchocerciasis control, plus additional funds to help Lions in Brazil, Ecuador and other impacted countries support national onchocerciasis control projects. Latin America now has less than 1 percent of the world’s river blindness. About 120 million people remain at risk in Africa.
*This story by Cassandra Bannon is from the February 2015 edition of LION Magazine.
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