Touchstone Story–Campaign SightFirst II

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In the early 1990s, Lions raised more than $140 million to help end preventable blindness through the SightFirst program.

As a result of the massive fundraising campaign, Lions helped to save the eyesight of millions over the next decade through related grants and projects, especially cataract surgeries and other eye care services. Yet by 2002, there was much work left to do, and Lions Clubs International Foundation knew the funds wouldn’t last forever.

How would Lions build on the success of the far-reaching and life-changing program? They would do so by raising even more funds through a second campaign. The goal: at least $150 million and a stretch goal of $200 million.

“People thought we were crazy,” Past International President J. Frank Moore III said.

At the 2005 Lions Clubs International Convention in Hong Kong, Dr. Tae-Sup Lee, chairperson of the campaign, launched Campaign SightFirst II with the ringing of a gong. In Asia, tradition asserts that each strike of the gong reduces the suffering of one soul. Lions hoped to save millions of people from preventable blindness.

Campaign SightFirst II had new objectives in addition to the initial SightFirst I goals, which had included eliminating river blindness in Latin America and controlling its spread in Africa. The second campaign aimed its funds and programs at addressing emerging threats to vision such as diabetes, glaucoma and childhood blindness that affect all countries, not just those in developing nations with poor access to resources. Campaign funds would also be used for training, vision screening, eyeglasses, vision clinics and research, as well as for programs to help the blind and visually impaired whose eyesight cannot be restored.

With 30 lead gifts, Campaign SightFirst II was off and running. All over the world, Lions devoted countless hours to raising funds and awareness. Lions in Germany sold wine. The Quito Equinoccial Lions Club in Ecuador raffled off a car. Lions in Waterman, Illinois, USA, sponsored a 5K run in their town.

Members gave more than just their time and energy to fundraising. They gave personal financial donations to the campaign as well, especially Lions in Japan and Korea. Within a year, Lions raised US$60 million toward the campaign. In 2008, the campaign fundraising closed with Lions surpassing their stretch goal to reach US$205 million.

SightFirst II is funding a wide range of high-quality, sustainable projects around the globe. The Lions of District 122 in the Czech Republic received a US$133,000 grant to support training courses at the Lions Ophthalmic Education Centre in Prague. In Belize, a US$130,000 grant is helping to expand screening and treatment for eye disease associated with diabetes. Sustainable models of service, such as training and providing equipment, also continue to be a key focus of the ongoing distribution of campaign funds.

The program’s expanded scope is making SightFirst more relevant and available to Lions in all countries.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!

Volunteers handing out supplies to flood victims in Mexico

LCIF Awards Disaster Grants, September 2017

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Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) offers a variety of funding options to support various stages for disaster relief operations, including Disaster Preparedness, Emergency, Community Recovery and Major Catastrophe Grants.

For districts impacted by a natural disaster including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis, Emergency Grants provide up to US$10,000. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year. Community Recovery Grants aid districts interested in supporting short-term cleanup and repair efforts in situations where other organizations have already addressed immediate needs. Lions district governors may submit proposals for community recovery grants.

In September 2017, LCIF awarded 16 Emergency Grants and 1 Community Recovery Grant totaling US$150,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:

Sierra Leone, District 403-A2
US$10,000 for mudslide relief

Philippines, District 301-C
US$5,000 for typhoon relief

Nepal, District 325-B2
US$10,000 for flood relief

Bolivia, District S-2
US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Mexico, District B-9
US$10,000 for storm relief

Poland, District 121
US$20,000 for community recovery

California, USA, District 4-C1
US$10,000 for wildfire relief

Mauritania, District 403-A1
US$5,000 for storm relief

Republic of Korea, District 355-A
US$10,000 for flood relief

Philippines, District 301-D2
US$5,000 for typhoon relief

Nigeria, District 404-A2
US$10,000 for flood relief

India, District 318-B
US$5,000 for flood relief

Italy, District 108-YA
US$10,000 for earthquake relief

India, District 318-D
US$5,000 for flood relief

India, District 318-C
US$5,000 for flood relief

Dominican Republic, District R-1
US$10,000 for hurricane relief

Honduras, District D-6
US$10,000 for flood relief


Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund today.

Donate to LCIF


What is Diabetic Retinopathy and How can Lions Help?

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Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, is the result of damage to the blood vessels of the retina—the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In some cases, the blood vessels swell and leak, while in others there is abnormal growth of new vessels. The disease usually affects both eyes and most often occurs in individuals who have had diabetes for many years.

Diabetic retinopathy accounts for nearly 5 percent of the world’s blindness. Once vision is lost from diabetic retinopathy, it cannot be restored. Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided with prevention or good control of diabetes. Once diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, progression of the disease and loss of vision can be reduced by 90 percent with improved control of diabetes and ongoing diabetic retinopathy treatment.

How can Lions Help?
SightFirst provides grant funding diabetic retinopathy projects where the disease is a significant public health concern. The projects are comprehensive in nature with activities ranging from public education and professional training, to screening, treatment and low vision services. Lions’ unending support of SightFirst makes these projects possible.

SightFirst’s diabetic retinopathy accomplishments include:

  • Educating more than 1.5 million people
  • Training more than 2,000 professionals
  • Conducting more than 23,000 surgeries
  • Screening more than 140,000 patients

Donate to LCIF

The Lions Eye Health Program (LEHP) is a community-based eye health education program that empowers Lions clubs, community organizations and individuals to promote healthy vision and raise awareness of the causes of preventable vision loss. The mission of LEHP is to empower communities to save sight through the early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, encourage those at- risk to undergo a dilated eye exam and educate those with low vision and their caregivers about the condition.

Diabetes contributes to more than 5 million deaths a year, making it the eighth-leading cause of death in the world. And the numbers are rising. Lions and Leos are confronting this global health emergency by raising awareness of diabetes through Strides events, expanding access to care through screening and treatment programs, and improving quality of life through diabetes camps and community recreational programs. We believe we can help prevent and control this global epidemic by uniting Lions and Leos around this cause.

For information on how your club can help, visit http://members.lionsclubs.org/EN/serve/diabetes/index.php.


Touchstone Story #52–Libraries & Schools

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In 1982, the schoolhouse in Nzeeni, Kenya, consisted of mud walls, an open space for a doorway, no windows and a thatched roof. Nzeeni was a flood-prone village of dirt roads, a poverty-stricken hamlet where local children came to school every day regardless of weather conditions. 

William Mutua Kyalo, chairman of the board of governors and overseer of the management of village schools, reached out to Dr. Y.C. Patel, a member of the Nairobi Gigiri Lions Club, for help. Patel helped organize a village meeting. Though resources were scarce, neighbors agreed to help. Locals would bring sand and stones from the river, baking bricks and wood for a new roof. A stonemason whose education Patel had sponsored offered to help construct the new building at cost. A local vegetable merchant who regularly traveled between Nzeeni and Nairobi would bring supplies that couldn’t be sourced locally. 

Within a year, seven classrooms and offices had been constructed. Within two years, four more classrooms had been added, and the new school was named the Nzeeni Lioness Primary School. 

A decade later, a workshop had been added for seventh-grade students, and a science laboratory, dormitories, a kitchen and dining room had been added as part of an expanded Gigiri Lions Girls Secondary School.  

What was once a mud-walled, thatched-roof school had become an education complex named the Nzeeni Lions Village. In 1993, ten years after the transformation began, the Melvin Jones Polytechnic School, named for the Lions Clubs International founder, opened its doors. Rohit Mehta of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, 1992-93 international president, attended an opening celebration and was greeted by a musical performance from the Nzeeni locals. Karibu, karibu, they chanted: “Welcome, welcome.” 

Investing in children and education means investing in the future. “Lion Dr. Y.C. Patel and his wife, Lady Lion Surekha, came to the rescue of the people of Nzeeni,” said Kyalo. “When this couple stepped into the village, the people of Nzeeni were very willing to work with them. We can never repay them for what they have done for our village.”  

From gathering books and turning an unused room into a library in East Dubuque, Illinois, in 1937 to building a modern, three-story addition to the Sri Ramakrishna MHS in India in 2010, Lions clubs and Lions Clubs International Foundation have built, adopted and expanded schools around the world since the organization’s founding. As Past District Governor S. Nagin of the Tambaram West Lions Club of India said, “Whatever you do for the cause of education, the youth will come up with [even] greater ideas.” 

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!


Bringing Healthy Vision into Focus

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Did you know that 19 million children around the world are visually impaired? Of these, nearly 2 of 3 just need access to simple eyeglasses to correct refractive errors, including myopia (a condition in which distant objects appear blurry). That is why Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Companies teamed up with local partners to create Sight for Kids, a program that mobilizes eye care professionals and volunteers to conduct vision screenings in low-income schools and provides teachers with eye health training across Asia, Kenya and Turkey.

To date, 150,000 Sight for Kids-trained teachers have screened more than 24.1 million kids for visual impairment. The program has provided free services to 500,000 kids.  Sight for Kids aims to double the total number of children treated to 1 million by 2021.

Donating just US$1 provides four kids with Sight for Kids eye health education and access to vision screenings.

Donate to LCIF


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