LCIF’s SightFirst program has been restoring and protecting sight for more than 30 years and is now present in 102 countries. This extraordinary program develops comprehensive eye care systems providing aid to underserved populations by developing comprehensive eye care systems.
LCIF’s SightFirst program has been restoring and protecting sight for more than 30 years.
Projects include training eye care professionals and management personnel, upgrading the infrastructure of existing eye care systems, improving access to education and rehabilitation for people who are blind or visually impaired, and increasing public awareness of the importance of eye health. Through the support of LCIF, Lions, and partners, SightFirst focuses on eye care challenges as simple as an uncorrected refractive error to something as complex as a bacterial infection, such as trachoma. They make it possible for Lions to put a stop to avoidable blindness.
Lions Create Change
Approximately 80 percent of global vision impairment can be prevented. As Knights of the Blind, Lions take this statistic to heart, and work to improve the lives of people across the world who are in danger of losing their vision. In Burkina Faso, a two-year SightFirst project is providing eye care access in areas where eye care is unaffordable. Supported by a US$110,746 LCIF SightFirst grant, Lions and a local organization, One Dollar Glasses, are establishing four clinics where patients will have their vision screened at no cost. In addition, eyeglasses will be for sale at a much lower rate than at local markets, or free for those who cannot afford it. The project, which began in 2018, is expected to screen 124,000 people and will distribute 26,400 pairs of eyeglasses.
Meet some of the lives this project has changed throughout its first year:
François couldn’t see clearly more then 10 inches (25 cm) ahead. Yet, the 65-year-old man left his village at four o’ clock in the morning to travel on his motorbike 29 miles (45 km). The trip was not easy. The road was rocky and in dangerous condition. He had a few mishaps along the way and followed other motorists closely so he knew where to go. He hoped the trip would be worth it. Though François needed eye care badly, it was unaffordable in his village. Then one day, François’ friend mentioned one of the new clinics helping locals who could not afford eye care. François made the long and arduous trek and arrived at the clinic where an optician screened his vision and determined the correct prescription for his eyeglasses. François was able to purchase the eyeglasses for 5,000 CFA (just US$10). When he put them on, he smiled. He told the optician he could see everything perfectly.
François left on his motorbike and headed home. This time, he didn’t need to follow anyone.
Every morning, Idrissa wakes and heads out to his bistro. His specialty is avocado sandwiches, made with tomatoes, onions, and avocados on a fresh baguette; it is how many people in his neighborhood start their day. Idrissa loves what he does. There is just one problem – a big problem. Idrissa has very poor eyesight. Even as the owner of a successful business, the 30-year old could not afford eyeglasses.
Once involved in all aspects of his bistro, Idrissa can no longer use a motorbike to deliver sandwiches, so he relies on his brother to make the deliveries. He misses the interactions with his customers. He misses looking for new opportunities to grow his bistro.
Meanwhile, word of a new clinic was making its way to Idrissa’s neighborhood. His brother heard about the clinic and told Idrissa about the opportunity for free vision testing and affordable eyeglasses. Longing to end his daily frustrations, Idrissa made his way to the clinic where he had the first eye examination of his life. Afterword, he put on the eyeglasses he purchased, and his life changed in an instant. He started delivering sandwiches again, visiting with his customers, winning new customers, and growing the business. He smiles as customers come through the door.
At the age of 30, Idrissa feels like a new person, and he wants others to have the same experience. On a wall in his bistro hangs a poster promoting the clinic, so others struggling with poor vision can have a chance at a new life, too.
Four years ago, Constan completely lost his vision. He was suffering with glaucoma, an eye disease that often doesn’t show any symptoms until it’s in an advanced stage. After some unfortunate mishandling of the condition, he became irreversibly blind. In 2019, at the age of 29, Constan didn’t have a job and could not support himself. That is, until SightFirst established a nearby eye clinic. The clinic needed someone who could produce eyeglasses and Constan was fit for the role. Newly trained, Constan is now employed as a producer, earning a living and creating eyeglasses that will change the lives of thousands of people.
Thanks to support from LCIF’s SightFirst program, local Lions, and One Dollar Glasses, people in less fortunate circumstances are gaining their independence, including François, Idrissa, and Constan.
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.
Vision is just one cause area supported by LCIF and Campaign 100: LCIF Empowering Service. With financial support from Lions and clubs worldwide, Campaign 100 is empowering Lions to increase service impact in vision, youth, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts; fight the global epidemic of diabetes; and make important progress in the expanded cause areas of childhood cancer, hunger, and the environment.
Jamie Konigsfeld is the marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.