We are Knights of the Blind. At least that’s how we are known in English-speaking nations. In France, we call ourselves the Chevaliers des Aveugles. In Latin America, we are Paladines de los Ciegos. Chinese Lions understand themselves as 盲者之武士. Knights ride under a multitude of flags, speak many languages and practice different customs. But in whatever nation or culture, Lions ferociously battle blindness and kindly help those with vision impairments, often thanks to SightFirst. California, United States People with good vision learned how people with vision impairments safely navigate through life at a White Cane Safety Day held by the Tustin Host Lions Club. People admired guide dogs, wore goggles that simulate vision problems and heard from the White Cane Marching Society members on marching in formation. “Anything you can do to educate the public about white canes, the better off we are. People need to watch out for people with the white cane,” says Lion Walt Sullent, who formed the marching society that has taken part in the Rose Parade. Amy Levinson (photo) helped a young child walk with low vision simulator goggles. “I had sunglasses on so people couldn’t see my tears. It’s just so impressive what we do for people,” Levinson says. North Carolina, United States For five years the 14-member Lincolnton Lions have traveled to schools to do eye screenings for young children. “It’s unbelievably rewarding,” says Past President Charles Stevens (photo), a retired Methodist minister. “When you go back, the kids say, ‘I got my glasses because you came.’ Or teachers say the kids are doing so much better [because they have glasses].” The children read eye charts set up in the school, and those with potential vision problems take more sophisticated tests inside the mobile screening unit of the North Carolina Lions. Operational since 2012, the 60-foot trailer does hearing screenings as well. Lions in North Carolina used a van for screenings from 1999 to 2012. The two mobile facilities have enabled Lions to screen more than 200,000 people. Mexicali, Mexico (Opposite, top) Lions received a standing ovation from Mexicans waiting for vision exams when the Lions arrived for a day of screening. “Wow. You know you’re doing good when that happens,” says Past Council Chair John Hart of Tucson, Arizona. Eleven Lions from Arizona and California, as well as Mexicali Lions, screened 794 patients, made 76 eyeglasses at their on-site optical lab and distributed 675 recycled eyeglasses over two days. Nearly 70 people needed follow-up such as cataract surgery, glaucoma treatment or repair of a retinal detachment. Local Lions handle the follow-up care. Led by Dr. Brian Van Dusen of the California Lions Friends in Sight, the missions began several years ago. Pictured is Karen Pryce of the Phoenix Metro Lions Club. Kaoma District, Zambia Astonishingly–and horrifyingly–nearly one in three children in this district has trachoma, a dreadful blinding disease rarely found in developed nations. Lions Aid Norway has succeeded in distributing Zithromax, a medication that wards off the disease, to 84 percent of the population. A routine eye exam showed that Chipango, 12, (left) and Kamana, 8, had trachoma, and they received Zithromax. Sava Region, Madagascar The Lions SightFirst Madagascar Eye Clinic provides a wide range of services including vision screenings, eyeglass distribution and cataract surgeries. Without the clinic, hundreds of thousands of people would have no hope to detect or correct vision problems. Hamburg, Germany Where Lions gather, sight service happens. A Special Olympics athlete peers at his new free glasses after a vision screening at the 96th International Convention. Växjö, Sweden Alarmed by the pollution of its lake, the city of 60,000 turned heads in 1996 by eliminating the use of fossil fuels by 2030. Lions in Växjö are eliminating poor vision. Växjö Dacke Lions has been collecting eyeglasses for eight years. This year the 27-member club collected, cleaned and sorted 1,500 eyeglasses for its partner Vision for All. The eyeglass recipients live in South America, Africa and Asia. Barcelona, Spain Lions in Spain collect eyeglasses from bins at pharmacies and opticians and send them to their recycling center in San Vicente de Raspey. “It generally sends shipments to Africa and countries without financial means or where there has been war or conflict,” says José M. Përez Soler, zone chairperson. María Rosa Conte (photo) of the Barcelona Layetano Host Lions Club prepares to ship thousands of eyeglasses. Lille, France (Left) The French government pays for medication to treat macular degeneration, and Lions in France regularly screen for the age-related eye disease. Lions in Lille, a city of 225,000 near the Belgium border, test a middle-aged woman for the disease. Faisalabad, Pakistan (Right) A familiar scene takes place worldwide: people in need line up for Lions’ free eye screenings and eyeglasses. It’s no different in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third largest city. On this day the Faisalabad Star New Century Lions provided eye screenings to more than 2,000 youths and provided eyeglasses for 600. Pollachi, India Bollywood loves the temperate climate and colorful markets of Pollachi, a small city of 95,000. More than 1,500 movies have been filmed here. But the engaging scenery masks the huge gaps in eye healthcare, a problem endemic to the impoverished nation. Nearly one in five of the world’s 39 million blind people live in India, which also counts 63 million people with vision impairment. The 406- member Pollachi Liberty Lions Club regularly does vision screenings. “We Lions know that eyesight is more important than any other thing in the world. So we give it preference as ‘sight first’ in our service,” says P. Prabu, club secretary. Here the club does eye exams at the Sri Ramu College of Arts and Sciences. China Cataract, easily fixed in minutes in a country such as the United States, remains a scourge in developing nations. Cataract is responsible for approximately half of China’s blind–2.5 million people. The good news is that Lions and LCIF have made great strides in reducing blindness in China. The Sight- First China Action program has made possible 5.1 million cataract surgeries as well as establishing surgical eye units in 104 rural counties that previously had none and creating secondary eye care units at hospitals in 200 underdeveloped regions. Multiple District 300 Taiwan (Left) Another typical day in Lionism: Lions in Multiple District 300 Taiwan help schoolchildren eventually see the blackboard (well, probably their iPads), do well in school and grow up to take their place in society–by checking their vision and then providing eyeglasses, if needed. Malaysia (Opposite) LCIF is partnering with the World Health Organization to establish or strengthen pediatric Lions eye care centers around the globe. These centers will deliver preventative, therapeutic and rehabilitative eye care services for 121 million children, including this young boy. Seoul, Korea All 41 members of the Seoul Dongnam Lions Club are optometrists. So it’s easy to understand the kinds of service the club does. Here a club member screens a boy’s vision at a reformatory school, an underserved population. Tokyo, Japan (Below) Eyeglass recycling has been growing among Japanese Lions; Tokyo Sangenjaya Lions diligently pack eyeglasses for recycling. The club partnered with ZOFF, a nationwide eyeglass retailer, to ship 7,200 eyeglasses to Australia. “Most eyeglasses are in very good shape,” a businessman told the Japanese LION. “Seeing Lions work in packaging these eyeglasses, I realize how much we consume and throw away that is still in usable or even perfect condition. These eyeglasses will change someone’s life somewhere in the world.” Durania, Colombia Like countless other small clubs, the 16-member Durania Lions Club brings the gift of sight to large numbers. Here a Lion screens impoverished children. Rupandehi District, Nepal (Above) When rural people can’t get to an eye clinic, Lions in Nepal take an eye clinic to them. It’s not a fancy vision van, but an eye chart affixed to a post is sometimes the first step for Nepalese Lions in determining and correcting a vision impairment. Manila, Philippines (Above) Children remain at great risk of blindness. On average, a child goes blind every minute. The awful totals: 1,440 a day, 43,200 a month and 518,400 a year. If you’ve been fortunate to reach the age of 50, nearly 26 million children have lost their sight during your lifetime. Lions in the Philippines pay special attention to children and provide early screenings to prevent blindness. Australia Lions Recycle for Sight Australia marshals volunteers of all ages to collect old eyeglasses to be redistributed to those in need. Digital LION Watch videos on a school for the blind and deaf in Argentina and a fishing outing for those with vision impairments in North Carolina at www.lionmagazine.org.
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