Each October, thousands of members of Lions clubs throughout the British Isles and Ireland support projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight, improve eye health and benefit eye care.
Globally, Lions Clubs International provides unrivaled support for sign programmes and services within local communities across the world. The organisation marks World Sight Day in October with a range of activities aiming at communicating a vision of a better tomorrow for those experiencing sight problems. This has been an essential part of Lions Clubs’ work for nearly 100 years.
It was in 1925 when Helen Keller, the inspirational deaf-blind campaigner, challenged Lions to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness”. Responding to this challenge continues in a range of sight related projects undertaken by Lions Clubs International British Isles & Ireland at home, and in support of the need of communities overseas.
- Lions Clubs International British Isles & Ireland Spectacle Recycling Initiative, launched originally by the Lions Club of Chichester in 1967, today sees nearly a third of a million pairs of used glasses collected, sorted and distributed to clinics and eye camps in communities across Africa, India and eastern Europe in partnership with Medico France. The project also raises financial support for eye related projects at home and overseas by recycling scrap metal from spectacles that are broken or unsuitable for recycling. Our thanks go to all those individuals and organisations who donate, collect, sort and distribute used spectacles.
- Nine out of 10 of the world’s visually impaired people live in developing countries. Lions clubs in the British Isles and Ireland donate on average £65,000 a year to Lions Sight Savers, a registered charity set up in partnership with Sightsavers. This charity is run by volunteer Lions, so all donations fund projects supported by Sightsavers in East Africa and the Indian sub-continent.
- One group that often gets overlooked in relation to eye care is the homeless. That’s why Chichester Lions and the Knowle and Dorridge Lions Clubs support the “Vision Care for Homeless People” charity in Brighton and Birmingham.
- In helping overseas communities, Lions clubs are careful to ensure assistance is provided directly to those who need it. Over the past eight years, more than 30 individuals volunteering with the not-for-profit organisation Unite for Sight have been supported in their work with projects in Ghana, India & Honduras. The Lions clubs spectacle recycling initiative has equipped each volunteer with around 500 pairs of reading glasses to be given to patients after eye surgery.
- With the assistance of the Diabetes Society of Ireland, at the annual Republic of Ireland National Ploughing Championships, a team of Lions members and qualified nurses test around 5,000 people to identify early symptoms.
- Lions clubs encourage those who have diabetes to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year as they are at risk of losing their sight due to diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes has been called a global epidemic, with the International Diabetes Federation estimating that by 2030 the current figure of 371 million people worldwide with the condition will have increased to 552 million. Given the importance of diabetes to so many people in our local and global communities, Lions clubs across the British Isles and Ireland are involved in raising awareness, improving education, supporting testing programmes and fund-raising to support control, prevention and research.