IT TAKES VISION NAMASTE! Lions have been Knights of the Blind since Helen Keller’s famous 1925 call to arms, working to end preventable blindness and visual impairment. However, it’s important to remember that Keller was not casting the blind as fairytale maidens in need of rescue. She quite clearly wanted Lions to help the blind community integrate into the world. For Lions, service ends when the people served can serve their families and community. She said, “The time has come to regard the work for the sightless as a whole, in which the kindergarten, the school, the library, the workshop, the home for the aged blind and prevention are seen to be parts of a great movement with one end in view, namely making life more worth living for the blind everywhere.” She could not have imagined how different normal life would be nearly 100 years later, but like any great thinker, her directive remains relevant. How do we help the blind to truly integrate into the world? And how do we help prevent or reverse the varied causes of blindness? We create assistive technologies that make everyday functions more accessible to the blind. And we help make sure those technologies are available to the very people who need them. If it isn’t affordable, it isn’t accessible. There are many ways we can help—guide dogs, electronic canes, mobile apps, inclusive social events, etc. We use our network and collective expertise to identify promising areas of scientific and medical research in which to invest. I urge your club to plan a project in sight—it could be surgeries (cataract, trachoma, diabetic retinopathy) or recycling eyeglasses or screening young kids for refractive errors or any other type of project in this area. This is what we do. In the last three and a half years, we have served 29 million people in the area of sight, involving over 26,000 clubs worldwide. As I write this, I am in South America where we have served 600,000 people in the area of River Blindness (Onchocerciasis). We know that great advances don’t happen without backing by people who have the vision to believe in the end goal. People who see in the light have sight. People who see in darkness have vision. It takes bravery to back new ideas and to actively seek out people who may need help rather than wait for them to find us. But Lions are brave. It takes vision to create change. And all Lions—sighted or not—have vision. DR. NARESH AGGARWAL LIONS CLUBS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT
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