Vision Restored in Paraguay A grass cutter in Paraguay, Nicholas Escobar injured one eye while working and a cataract in his other eye threatened him with blindness. His meager wages left him unable to afford the surgery he needed. Fortunately, he received a free cataract operation at the Lions-Vision Latin American Community Health Clinic in Asuncion, the capital. Escobar’s story is a common one since Lions helped build and equip the health clinic in 2008. “Because there’s such poverty in Paraguay, people can’t afford healthcare,” said Dr. Miguel Benitez of the clinic. The Lions-Vision clinic was funded by a SightFirst grant of $647,150. It became the first comprehensive, regional eye care program dedicated to the poor and community eye health not only in Paraguay but also in Latin America. The clinic aims to treat nearly 300,000 more patients during the next three years, perform 40 percent of the cataract surgeries in Paraguay (which would be 6,000 per year) and double the size of its crucially important international residency program. Eye care professionals from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and elsewhere receive advanced training at the clinic. The lack of access to eye care is especially acute in Paraguay. Ophthalmologists are in short supply. Ninety percent of nation’s 190 ophthalmologists live in Asuncion. Needless blindness is all too common. Nearly 150,000 Paraguayans can’t see because of cataract alone. The Lions-Vision clinic is part of the Fundacion Vision. Located near two main highways that stretch to the nation’s interior, the eye health center is the leading Eye care program in Paraguay. Day after day, Paraguayans with vision problems arrive from the countryside with just a little money in their pockets but with large hopes in their hearts. They leave with their vision restored and hopes fulfilled. “I’m so happy and thank you very much to the people who operated on me for free,” said Escobar. Through the Fundacion Vision and Lions-Vision clinic, Lions travel into the countryside of Paraguay to reach underserved people and to steer them toward follow-up care if needed at the Lions-Vision clinic (next page, bottom photo). Photos by Dan Morris Polio Push in India Polio almost has been wiped out. Even India, once ravaged by the crippling disease, has nearly eliminated it. But children remain at risk, and in January the Aurangabad City Leo Club in India saw to it that 533 children younger than five years old were immunized. The Leos held a rally to publicize the free immunization and went door to door to urge parents to protect their children. Collecting for Kidney Kids New Zealand Lions are up to their ears in wine bottle caps. And pull tabs from cans. Their zeal for collecting and recycling is good news for kids with kidney disorders. The Hastings Pioneer Lions Club has reached out to wineries, restaurants, bars and households to collect screw caps. Recycling 500,000 caps will produce US$2,200 for the Kidney Kids Support Group. “People put them out with the rubbish or recycling but they are worth money to the kidney kids,” says Lion Faye Nugent. Founded in 1990, Kidney Kids provides resourcesFor parents and organizes special camps for the children. The group is currently helping 1,250 children who need dialysis treatment or otherwise need support. Other Lions are backing Kan Tabs for Kidney Kids. The tabs from soda, tuna and even cat food cans likewise produces funds for the non-profit. Among those assisted by Kidney Kids was Katherine Paton, 16. Her mother donated a kidney to her. “Kidney Kids has been lovely and family and friends have been fantastic and supportive,” says mother Sandra Paton. Croatia Concert Benefits Blind It was a simple idea that grew to help many, explains Elvira Koic, of the Virovitica Vereucha Lions Club in Croatia. Lions sponsored a concert by noted blind pianist Perica Mihaljevic—with funds being used to help visually handicapped citizens of the region. “In almost every city, there is a public library and reading room,” she says. “In the east region of our District 126, there are 20 Lions clubs active and a large part of what we do is to help people who need aid. The concert raised enough funds to purchase speaking units so that blind people can use the computers.”
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