Cassandra Bannon 2015-09-12 10:09:32
Kentucky Children Gain Better Vision Every child in every Head Start program in Kentucky—that’s the new target population for the KidSight program in Kentucky. Children in Head Start often do not have access to eye health resources. Yet Head Start requires that every child receive a vision screening within 45 days of enrolling in the program. The Lions of Kentucky hope the expansion will fulfill this requirement for 20,000 children. Lions will screen children living in Kentucky’s coal mining communities, from migrant farmworker families and those in impoverished inner city areas. Lions of Kentucky are being assisted by an LCIF Standard grant for $92,312. The screenings will be done in partnership with the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, the Louisville Downtown Lions Club and the Kentucky Head Start Association. The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation initiated its Kid-Sight program in 2003. Since then, the program has screened the vision of more than 80,000 children throughout Kentucky. Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children under the age of five by enhancing their social, emotional and cognitive development. Children enrolled in Head Start programs reside in low-income households; to qualify for Head Start, a family of four’s annual income may not exceed $23,850. Typically, vision screenings for Head Start children in Kentucky are performed by local health departments with vision charts. While these charts may be adequate for older children without language or medical barriers, local Lions are concerned about their accuracy in screening infants and children with developmental delays. According to program data, 12 percent of Head Start children have disabilities that impede traditional vision screenings and up to 32 percent have language barriers. Much of the grant funding was used to purchase noninvasive photoscreening devices. Many Lions clubs use these cameras to conduct their screening outreach activities. The cameras boast a 95 percent accuracy rate and provide immediate results. These devices are useful in detecting nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye and other conditions that can be easily corrected if detected early. Local Lions are visiting Head Start centers throughout Kentucky to conduct screenings for children who might otherwise not be able to obtain them. All children whose screenings indicate the need for follow-up care are referred to eye health professionals. Head Start staff work to find, secure and coordinate the follow-up care, ensuring that assistance does not end with a vision screening. During a pilot program in western Kentucky in 2011, 618 Head Start preschool children received vision screenings. Fifteen percent were found to need prescriptive eyeglasses and 5 percent were found to have a serious eye disease. Felicia Elliot, a nurse and a former Head Start program specialist, says, “This pilot proved to be of great value. I, along with the parents of all 618 of those screened children whose vision was saved are extremely grateful to the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, the KidSight program and all its wonderful volunteers.” The Lions of Kentucky expect to screen all Head Start children in the state by the end of 2015, after which local clubs will use the cameras for community-wide screenings at churches, health fairs and day care centers. Information on how clubs can apply for an LCIF Standard grant is at lcif.org. U.S. clubs and districts can visit KidSight USA.com to get involved in screening children. LCIF Brings Access to Education to Children in Guatemala BY ERIC MARGULES Lions work tirelessly to bring dignity to the world’s underserved populations. It’s in their nature. So when Lions in District 113-M in Austria learned that children in Rio Blanco—a town in Guatemala’s Joyabaj municipality—were attending school in desperate conditions, they pounced on the opportunity to serve. In 2011, the building constructed to house Rio Blanco’s elementary school was intended to be temporary. With little ventilation, the ramshackle structure of wooden planks and corrugated metal struggled to accommodate its 100 students, and offered only one toilet for students and staff to share. Three years later, despite government promises to construct a new building, the shack was still in use. Dr. Franz Mostegel, district governor of 113-M, knew something had to be done. Working with clubs in his district and the local Guatemala Quiche Lions Club, Mostegal secured a US$51,000 Standard Grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) for construction of a new school building. The new school includes four classrooms, a sports area, functioning restrooms and a storage room. Situated on land donated to the municipality of Joyabaj, the people Rio Blanco own the school. To cover remaining costs, the Austrian Lions ran a successful fundraising campaign, raising more than US$110,000, far exceeding their own expectations. With the necessary funds in place, construction began in November, 2014. Despite inclement weather and the opportunity to earn higher wages elsewhere, many locals pitched in to ensure the building was finished as quickly as possible. Six months later to the day, with construction completed, Austrian Lions arrived in Guatemala to meet with local Lions, leaders and schoolchildren for the school’s opening ceremony. “I appreciate the generosity of Lions for financing that primary school for our students here in Rio Blanco. The Lions make education possible, and education means hope for a future. We are very proud and thankful,” said Mayor of Joyabaj, Sr. Florencio Carrascosa during the ceremony. Excess funds raised by the Lions that weren’t used for construction were put into a scholarship fund to help the school’s top graduates attend secondary school in the provincial capital. For Margarita Escobedo, a teacher in Rio Blanco, the new school means the fulfillment of a dream for her students. “It’s like a dream. Now I can teach students in a proper classroom with chairs and desks. And what a wonderful sports field outside. I am so thankful.” The need for education is great, especially in rural areas of Guatemala. But through their service and generosity, Lions have once again proven that where there’s a need, there’s a Lion. For more information on Standard grants and to find out how your Lions club can apply, please visit www.lcif.org.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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