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Serving the “Helen Kellers” of Our Day

Lion Dr. Francis Onen Sebabi October 30, 2020

I am Dr. Francis Onen Sebabi, a beneficiary of a Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) SightFirst grant. I feel obliged to share my story of how the support from LCIF and Lions changed my life.

My dream is being fulfilled.

As a general practitioner, I had a lifelong dream of studying a clinical specialization but it seemed like an impossible dream.  That is until I received an education and training scholarship from Lions Club of Uganda and Lions Club of Gulu Metropolitan, made possible through LCIF funding of the SightFirst Comprehensive Eye Care project in Uganda. I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and they are all unique and deserve to be shared.

Timely support from LCIF and Lions Club

Some time ago, I joined the Lions Club of Gulu Metropolitan amid calls by many other charity organizations inviting me to do likewise. As a new Lion, I learned about Helen Keller. Her inspiring story moved me. I began imagining how many “Helen Kellers” there are in our society. Children with corneal tears or eye infections whose sight is threatened are our living “Helen Kellers.” Elderly people who have lost their sight to cataracts are modern day “Helen Kellers.”

What about the children who are unable to attend school or learn because they don’t have a pair of glasses that corrects their vision? Or the needy person who is unable to get the appropriate eye care? All these are “Helen Kellers” of today.  So, I decided to pursue a postgraduate course in ophthalmology.

Striving to serve the “Helen Kellers”

As much as I had an interest in clinical specialization, getting the funds to take the course was a challenge. Financial support from Lions was timely because clinical specialization is a full-time course and is conducted away from my home. This means that you would have to leave your place of employment with no source of income while taking the course, which makes it quite difficult.

After submitting an application and being admitted into the Lions fraternity, something great happened. I saw an advertisement for a Lions’ scholarship for training to provide eye services in the Acholi sub-region. So, I applied for it, was interviewed and received the support. To me, this was a miracle. I would be able to specialize in eye care! I promised myself to undergo the rigor of the course and strive to become an ophthalmologist. Then I could return to serve the “Helen Kellers” in my area and contribute to support services to all the “Helen Kellers” in other areas areas wherever there was a need.

During my training so far, the Lions’ support has enabled me to study uninterrupted. Even though I was motivated and determined, without the financial support, I would not have been able to complete this course.

I am now close to becoming a qualified ophthalmologist. My dream, which seemed impossible just a short time ago is finally coming true.

No words can ever convey my gratitude for what I have received from the Lions’ support for my Master of Medicine in ophthalmology. The scholarship extended to me will benefit those who need eye services in our world. Today’s “Helen Kellers” are the ultimate winners of this scholarship.

The global foundation empowering Lions service

Through support from the LCIF SightFirst grant, the Gulu Regional Referral eye department located in Acholi sub-region of northern Uganda, has evolved from an eye clinic to a regional center of excellence providing curative and preventive eye health services, training and research. The demand and uptake of services have gradually increased, and the ophthalmic services are being utilized all over Uganda, Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The SightFirst support has turned the department into one of the best ophthalmic facilities in the country, providing comprehensive eye health services in line with Universal Eye Health Strategies of Vision 2020.

LCIF is the grant-making body empowering Lions to create greater impact in their communities and around the world. The vast majority of funding LCIF receives is from Lions. One hundred percent of every donation supports Lions service through LCIF grants and programs.

Learn more about LCIF grants


Lion Dr. Francis Onen Sebabi is a member of the Lions Club of Gulu Metropolitan and a graduate student with a Master of Medicine in Ophthalmology (MAK).