Allie Stryker 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Celebrating 10 Years of Sight for Kids Alyanna Quimlat of the Philippines knows the benefits of healthy eyes and the Sight for Kids program. A Sight for Kids vision screening and eyeglasses helped her rise from among the lower performing students to become salutatorian of her middle school’s graduating class. “During third grade, a free eye consultation was held by the Peninsula Lions Club through the leadership of Ms. Gila Garcia. I was one of the fortunate students who were given the free eyeglasses,” said Alyanna in her salutatorian speech. “Before, I thought my eyesight was normal, even though I could not clearly see what was written on the board. What a big help these eyeglasses were to me. Because of your support, I was able to reach where I am right now.” At just 14 years old, Alyanna recognizes that her eye sight is precious. Access to an eye exam and eyeglasses brought her world into focus–and brought academic success within her reach. Today, Sight for Kids in the Philippines is one of eight such programs in Asia providing much-needed vision screenings and follow-up care. An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired around the world, according to the World Health Organization. More than half of these children have refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism) that can be diagnosed through eye exams and easily corrected with eyeglasses. Left untreated, severe visual impairment and blindness can eventually occur. In Asia, a lack of access to visual impairment treatment has resulted in an estimated 1 million blind children. To reduce childhood visual impairment and blindness in Asia, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care created the Sight for Kids program in 2002. Led by Lions and local partners, the program recruits eye care professionals who train local teachers to conduct school-based vision screenings and eye health education in underserved communities. When needed, students are referred to a local eye care professional and receive an eye exam, eyeglasses and further care at no cost. “When this program began, I was very happy because we could better serve the people of our community,” says Dr. Letty Anzures, an optometrist, a Sight for Kids volunteer and a Paolo City Emerald Lions Club member. “With the partnership with Johnson & Johnson, we were recently able to provide 200 more pairs of eyeglasses to local kids.” As World Sight Day is observed in October, the Sight for Kids program and its partners will celebrate its 10th anniversary. A decade after launching, eight Sight for Kids programs are thriving in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India. “Gaining access to an eye screening early in life is critical since many visionrelated issues can be addressed through preventative care,” says Thibaut Mongon, the Asia Pacific regional president of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. “We believe everyone is entitled to healthy vision, and our partnership with Sight for Kids gets us closer to this goal.” To date, more than 17 million children have had their vision screened through Sight for Kids. Of these, more than 500,000 children have received professional eye exams and 200,000 have received free eyeglasses. “Sight for Kids shows what’s possible when committed partners believe in addressing childhood health and sight issues,” says Wing-Kun Tam, LCIF chairperson. “Lions are leaders in blindness prevention and Johnson & Johnson is a leader in vision care. Together, this partnership allows us to save sight in areas of great need.” The accomplishments of the program have a special meaning for members of Sight for Kids in Thailand, one of the original countries involved. “When you are able to talk to [the children] before and after surgery, you can feel that deep inside you have just helped a young kid,” says Vuthi Boonnikornvoravith, founder of Sight for Kids Thailand and a past director of Lions Clubs International. “They always remember the Lions who have been helping them and, we hope someday, they will be able to help other less fortunate students.” Thammasak Chuthong is one of the recipients of Sight for Kids’ care in Thailand. As an infant, he had cataract surgery in his left eye. Nine years later, a Sight for Kids examination revealed continuing vision problems in that eye. Because his vision problem was caught early through the screening, Thammasak received eye surgery at a local Lions hospital. His sight was restored and permanent damage was prevented. “Our goal is to make it possible for an ever-growing number of children to be served by this excellent program,” says Boonnikornvoravith. “Sight for Kids in Thailand has real impact because it creates an awareness of eye health among schoolteachers, children and their parents, not to mention the public.” During this anniversary year, Sight for Kids partners are celebrating accomplishments and also focusing on the program’s potential and a new decade of efforts and success. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care has committed $2 million to continue funding Sight for Kids in areas of need. “If the next 10 years continues the momentum of the first decade, we will be delighted to have screened truly unprecedented numbers of children for uncorrected refractive errors and been able to provide appropriate treatment to those unable to afford it,” says Mongon. On World Sight Day and throughout October, visit www.LCIF.org to follow Sight for Kids celebrations and events.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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