The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is the global charitable arm of the association, providing grants to Lions to enable them to answer needs in their communities. Last year alone, LCIF disbursed grants in excess of US$16.7 million to districts around the world. In its nearly three decades of existence, LCIF's growth has been phenomenal and, assured of the growing support of Lions, will continue to expand.
Through humanitarian service grants, LCIF enables Lions to construct and equip workshops and training facilities, thus making it possible for the disabled and disadvantaged to gain expertise in skills that will make them self-supporting and productive members of society.
LCIF supports Lions' long-term efforts to rebuild communities when devastation caused by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados and other catastrophes make major reconstruction necessary.
Grants have also made it possible for Lions to build clinics, hospitals, libraries, schools and many other facilities.
The Melvin Jones Fellowship Program is a primary means for LCIF to strengthen its financial base. The fellowship is presented to a Lion or other individual for a personal contribution or as a tribute from a club of US$1,000. Presently, there are well in excess of 145,000 Fellows with 95 Lions clubs having 100 percent of their memberships recorded as Melvin Jones Fellows.
LCIF funds and administers SightFirst, the association's program to conquer reversible and preventable blindness. During the recently completed three-year Campaign SightFirst fundraising effort, more than US$142 million has been documented in cash and pledges, exceeding the US$130 million objective. LCIF is presently disbursing these funds to assist Lions in conducting far-reaching initiatives in blindness prevention. SightFirst encompasses five major areas in its fight against blindness: cataract, onchocerciasis (river blindness), xerophthalmia (Vitamin A deficiency), glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. The early results of SightFirst have been tremendous. Thus far, more than 850,000 individuals, living mainly in developing countries, have had their sight restored through cataract surgery. Also, an intensive campaign is now underway to attack river blindness in those areas of the world, primarily western Africa, where the disease is prevalent.
The devastating effects of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease are now being addressed in developed areas of the world where they most occur. A successful pilot program, called the Lions Eye Health Program (LEHP), conducted by the Lions of Multiple District 22 (Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia), in conjunction with the National Eye Institute in the United States, not only tested hundreds of individuals most at risk for these diseases, but provided informational material of their symptoms. It has now been adapted for implementation throughout the United States and in other developed areas of the world, notably Japan.
"Recreating this program," says Past International Director Clement F. Kusiak, LEHP national program coordinator, "will bring Lions one step closer to reaching their goal of eradicating preventable blindness around the world."
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