The Gates Foundation has awarded LCIF $5 million

By Russell Sarver Past international director of Lions Clubs International

Russell Sarver is a Past international director of Lions Clubs InternationalLions Clubs do great work locally and around the world. Below are some examples of what has been accomplished.

Update of measles initiative: Since joining the measles initiative last year, Lions Clubs International Foundation, in a collaborative effort with several leading organizations to eliminate measles, have vaccinated the one-billionth child for measles. Since 2001, the World Health Organization estimates that measles has been reduced by 78 percent. In 2009, almost 900,000 African children died from measles; and in 2010, 164,000 died from measles.

The Gates Foundation has awarded Lions Clubs International Foundation $5 million for the program this year, by matching every $2 that LCIF raises with $1, and they have set a combined goal of providing $15 million toward this initiative.

Lions Clubs making impact in South Asia: Lions helped to raise more than $200 million during Campaign SightFirst II in donations and pledges. These funds already are having a great impact around the world, including South Asia. To date, in South Asia, the program has helped to fund 112 projects totaling $16.9 million. These funds are being used to upgrade or expand 72 clinics and hospitals, provide 496,200 cataract surgeries, and train 96 midlevel ophthalmic personnel. In addition, one eye hospital will be constructed and equipped, and one multiple district diabetic retinopathy program, including equipment and training, has been completed.

LCIF awards grants: At the recent international board of directors meeting in Hong Kong,  55 grants were awarded, totaling $4.09 million and benefiting 915,778 individuals. This includes $1.19 million for the Special Olympics Opening Eyes program.

River blindness eliminated in Colombia: Since 2004, SightFirst has been a contributing partner in the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program (River Blindness) of the Americas, which works to end river blindness in Latin America. As a result of work done in these areas, it is announced that Colombia is now free from river blindness.

LCIF providing famine relief in Africa: Right now, famine is threatening the lives of millions of people in Africa. As always, Lions are bringing aid to the people affected by this disaster. LCIF has approved a $15,000 grant to support famine relief. Lions in Kenya also collected $10,000, and our members around the world are rallying to help. Lions in Sweden are donating $77,000; a Lions Club in Germany has pledged to collect $7,100; and Lions from Ethiopia are also taking part in relief efforts.

Milestone Toward Ending River Blindness In The Western Hemisphere By 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2009) — An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years—with continued hard work and increased political will—river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin—also known as Mectizan® donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

River blindness under control in Escuintla, Guatemala

An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings, which detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease, are published March 31st in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years-with continued hard work and increased political will-river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin-also known as Mectizan? donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

http://www.plos.org/

Uniontown Lion Paul Ruley bring clear vision to thousands each year

Longtime Uniontown resident, Paul Ruley, has been deeply involved with the Uniontown Lions club’s efforts to collect used eyeglasses, evaluate their prescriptions and match them up with those in need of glasses in third world countries.

Each Monday morning and Thursday evening you’ll find Paul and members of the Uniontown and neighboring Lions Clubs gathered together in the Uniontown Community Park building in an effort to bring clear vision to thousands of needy folks in Latin America.

“There are people in villages and towns in third world countries who cannot accomplish menial tasks without eyeglasses,” informed Steve Sinsabaugh, the club’s media representative. “Many can’t support themselves financially without our help,” he said.

The eyeglass recycling project began with Uniontown Lions in 2001 when Doctor Braden Kail visited the club to talk about his trip to Honduras to provide eyeglasses to the needy. Kail explained what his biggest challenge was the preparation and evaluation of the glasses for the trips. Ruley chaired the sight committee for the Lions in 2001 and led the club’s efforts to collect used glasses at several locations, including Goodwill stores. Instead of turning over unprocessed glasses, Paul began processing them so that they would be ready to be used by impaired citizens upon arrival.

The process involves sorting the glasses into plastic or metal frames, regular prescriptions or bifocals, sunglasses or safety glasses.

At this point the glasses are washed, prescriptions are evaluated and necessary repairs are made. With the help of analog and digital lensometers, Ruley’s technical expertise has impacted citizens from Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador and Honduras. The prescription is recorded before shipment for an optician in the Third World country to match as closely as possible with each patient.

“Because of Paul’s leadership and with the help of members Bob Jones, Al Spigelmire, Dave Rhodes and Dom Trifero we took on this process here in Uniontown and it continues to grow,” said Sinsabaugh.

Processing the glasses has become easier since a digital lensometer was approved for purchase by District 13-D of the Lions Club. The analog versions are still in use by experts such as Paul Ruley, but the digital is easier for a novice to read. Glasses are beginning to come in from other districts for evaluation. Due to the foresight of Paul and the Uniontown Lions Club, between 200 and 400 pairs of glasses are collected each month for recycling, with over 26,000 pairs shipped thus far.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Dedicates ‘Gift of Sight’ Statue in Recognition of Lions’ Blindness Prevention Efforts

President Carter, to visit LionsOAK BROOK, Ill., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will dedicate the “Gift of Sight” statue on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, at Lions Clubs International headquarters, 300 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook. The statue symbolizes Lions Clubs International Foundation’s (LCIF) ongoing collaborative efforts to combat preventable blindness and is a gift to Lions from The Carter Center.

The bronze statue depicts a child leading a man blinded by river blindness. For hundreds of years, a child leading a blind elder has been the fate of families stricken with river blindness, or onchocerciasis, in Africa and Latin America.

The dedication of the statue is part of a two-day symposium at Lions Clubs International headquarters where leading sight and health organizations from around the world will gather to discuss positive youth development and blindness prevention. A Lions club member, President Carter has long joined Lions in their fight to save and restore sight.

“Rosalynn and I have seen the devastating effects that blinding diseases have on individuals and their families. The Carter Center and Lions Clubs International Foundation, along with other vital partners, are working to preserve the vision of millions of people in Africa and the Americas,” said Carter Center Founder President Carter. “Thanks to these coordinated efforts, river blindness is nearly eliminated from the Western Hemisphere.”

LCIF recently completed a three-year global fundraising campaign, raising $203 million to continue and expand LCIF’s SightFirst program worldwide. Fifty million will fund projects to combat emerging threats to sight in the U.S. and other developed countries, such as conditions related to diabetes, low vision and glaucoma. More than $100 million will support programs that control and eliminate the major causes of blindness, such as river blindness, cataract and trachoma. The remaining $50+ million will fund support new research initiatives and rehabilitation.

LCIF has a long history of partnering with The Carter Center and Merck & Co., Inc. to fight river blindness. Through these joint efforts, experts predict river blindness will be eliminated in Latin America by the year 2012.

“It is a great honor to have former President Jimmy Carter dedicate this symbolic statue,” said Lions Clubs International President, Albert Brandel. “This partnership program is preventing and eliminating blindness around the world, and Lions are proud to take a hands-on approach.”

Currently river blindness is prevalent in Latin America and Africa and is transmitted by the bite of a black fly. The disease is often blinding but can be prevented through the medication Mectizan(R). Merck has donated 600 million doses of the drug to LCIF and other partners, and LCIF has awarded more than $30 million to The Carter Center for river blindness and other eye disease control programs through the Lions-Carter Center SightFirst Initiative. Lions play a vital local role in the programs, helping educate people on the diseases, distributing the drug and providing for eye health training and equipment.

Partnerships with leading NGOs and corporations play a key role in enabling Lions to promote and expand the global humanitarian effort to combat preventable blindness.

The statue was commissioned by The Carter Center Board Chair, John Moores. The sculptor, R.T. “Skip” Wallen, internationally recognized sculptor and printmaker from Juneau, Alaska, volunteered his time to produce the original bronze study. Other life-size castings of the “Gift of Sight” statue are located at The Carter Center in Atlanta and Merck & Co., Inc. Headquarters in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, as well as four additional locations worldwide.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.3 million members in 45,000 clubs in more than 203 countries and geographical areas around the world. Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times’ study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Established in 1968, LCIF has been involved with blindness prevention and treatment for nearly 20 years through the SightFirst program. LCIF has awarded $231 million for sight programs and prevented serious vision loss for 30 million people. Learn more at www.lionsclubs.org and www.lcif.org.

“Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”

A not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.

Uniontown Lions Recycling Program

Lions Recycle For SightThe Uniontown Lions Club collects old or unwanted eyeglasses for distribution to the visually impaired in developing nations. While 130.4 millions Americans wear prescription eyeglasses, according to the Vision Council of America, many children and adults in developing nations struggle through life with poor or severely impaired vision, due to expensive and limited eye care resources. According to the World Health Organization, the eyesight of one-in-four people worldwide can be improved through the use of corrective lenses. In some developing nations, an eye exam can cost as much as a month’s wages and there may be only one eye care physician available for several hundred thousand people. You can make a dramatic difference in the life of a child or adult by simply donating a pair of eyeglasses.

Despite the profound need for eyeglasses around the world, 68% of eyeglasses still languish in dresser drawers or get thrown away, according to a survey sponsored by Lions Clubs International. In fact, more than 75% of Americans who purchase prescription eyeglasses do not recycle their old eyeglasses when they buy a new pair, and more than half (62.2%) of those surveyed purchase new eyewear at least once every two or three years.

All types of eyeglasses and sunglasses, prescription and non-prescription, are acceptable. Exceptionally strong or weak prescriptions are needed. Reading glasses are very useful because many recipients are craftsman in need of visual correction to help them perform close-up tasks. Sunglasses are needed by people living near the equator, especially those with cataract, to shield their eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.

eyeglass rcycling centersThe eyeglasses you donate are processed by our club members. The glasses are cleaned, the prescriptions are read with our digital lensometer, and the glasses bagged and labeled. We then provide these glasses to several local optometrists who travel to Latin America to fit them to the poor. The glasses you donate today could be helping a poor villager see in a few months.