Opening Athletes’ Eyes in Kenya When Lions put their hearts into service, great accomplishments follow. Just ask the Special Olympics athletes and families in over 80 countries who have received health care and education as a part of Mission: Inclusion, part of the global partnership between Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and Special Olympics. Since 2001, Special Olympics has partnered with LCIF and Lions around the world to provide free examinations and health education to families and caretakers of individuals with intellectual disabilities. And now you can add another name to the list of countries participating in the project. In September, Lions in Kenya met with Lions First Vice President Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada and representatives from Special Olympics Kenya to sign a memorandum of understanding introducing the partnership to the people of Kenya. The agreement was signed by District 411 A Governor Davinder Eari; Samson Ndegwa, chairperson of the Lions SightFirst Eye Hospital; and John Makathimo, national director of Special Olympics Kenya. With the introduction of Mission: Inclusion, Lions in Kenya pledge to support the growth of Opening Eyes, LCIF’s vision care partnership program with Special Olympics, and ensure that high quality screening and follow-up care is available throughout the country for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. This support includes engaging Leos throughout the country in the Special Olympics inclusive sports model and supporting the creation of Special Olympics-focused Lions clubs that integrate athletes through the “Invite an Athlete” campaign. Lions in Kenya hope to provide increased service and support for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families by engaging at least 100 Lions in Opening Eyes events and Family Health Forums throughout the year. In doing so, the expanded program will provide an estimated 500 athletes a year with quality vision screenings and follow-up care. In addition, the Mission: Inclusion partnership seeks to build on previous successes by mobilizing local Leos and Lions to hold at least one Unified Sports match, bringing together Leos and Special Olympics Kenya athletes. After the signing ceremony, more than 100 athletes received vision examinations as part of the Opening Eyes program. In the future, the Lions of Kenya will help these and other athletes to participate in the Special Olympics Kenya National Games and prepare them for participation for the Special Olympics Summer Games in 2015. Special Olympics and Lions believe in the transformative power of sports and service. Further history was made when Yamada received the charter application for the first Champions Lions club in Africa dedicated to supporting Special Olympics and working with people with intellectual disabilities. This new club will be the 12th Champions Lions club worldwide since beginning of the global partnership between LCIF and Special Olympics.
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