I'm here to inform you about an organisation called Lions Clubs International. There are actually quite a few Lions in this room right now, and they know all of the things that I'm going to tell you, but I'll remind them anyway because they have every right to feel proud.
Lions Clubs International was formed in 1917 at the inspiration of Melvin Jones. He could see half of the young men in Europe, but also in the USA and Canada, being carted of to the battle fields of France and Belgium and a vast number would never return. He considered that half of the conflicts in the world are fought in the name of politics and the other half in the name of religion, so he proposed the formation of an organisation where partisan politics and sectarian religionwould be banned.
He was looking for people with courage, loyalty and fidelity. He called meetings of many organisations based in Chicago and one called Lions Clubs International offered their name, The movement began and is now 43,000 clubs strong in 200 countries and geographical areas and totalling 1.3 million people.
Our motto is We Serve
In 1925 Helen Keller arrived at the Lions Convention and threw down the gauntlet. Her closing words were “Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”
So what have we done?
In 1921 James Biggs of Bristol painted his stick white, so he was first but he only did it for himself. In 1930, George Bonham watched a blind man struggle to cross the road in Detroit and came up with the same answer. But this time it was rolled out by Lions Clubs all across America and the white cane became a major prop for the blind.
In 1930 Muriel Crooke & Rosamind Bond, two English nurses working in Switzerland met an American dog handler and asked him if a dog could be trained to assist the blind. He showed them how to do it and on their return they moved into a garage in Wallasey and trained four dogs. The American returned home, told the Lions about the project and the first training schools for Leader Dogs for the Blind were set up and the movement moved like a prairie fire.
We began to move on. The United Nations approached LCI in the late 1980s. They said there were 40 million people in the world who were blind, 32 million of them unnecessarily. If unchecked, that would be 80 million by 2010, at the current rate of population increase.
Most of the blindness inflicted on many parts of the world was either preventable or curable.
We started Campaign Sight First.
It began in 1990 and ran for three years. The target was $120 million.
We raised $180 million
The population grew faster than had been predicted.
We reduced the number of blind worldwide to 37 million. On paper just 3 million but against forecast it was 43 million.
There was still one child going blind every minute.
The new prediction was that blindness could affect 74 million people, so we had to act again
Campaign Sight First II
This time the target was $180 million
We raised $220 million.
What have we done with the money?
We have built 315 eye hospitals
Vaccinated 41 million children
Trained 650,000 eye care specialists
Returned sight or prevented immediate sight loss for 14 million children
Carried out 8 million cataract surgeries
Treated 148 million sufferers of river blindness
We do what it says on the tin. We fight blindness wherever it exists. The cost of saving eyesight in our eye camps is £3 per person. The cost of restoring eye sight is around £30.
We will continue to fight until we have honoured our pledge to Helen Keller
But what next?
We have now come up with a project that will affect every special needs school in the developed world.
The original concept was intended just for blind children but we quickly realised that it would affect everyone with dexterity problems.
Working with Graff we have produced the Diamond media player where all of the operating buttons are very large. The machine is very robust and can be operated by being struck with the forearm or fist. This is married to the Newsbridge recording system and a fabulous scan to voice camera and software from Ready Tech which captures a page in just one second. This will be driven by Lions, starting this week.
I also want to address some comments overheard this weekend.
If you have got a talking newspaper that is struggling for funds. Talk to me.
If your talking newspaper is struggling to change to digital, talk to me.
If you can’t find volunteers, talk to me.
If you can’t get to your listeners with the new media players, talk to me and I will talk to your Lions.
That what we Lions are here for.
Posted by John May at 18:38 UTC
Sunday, 25 September 2011
John May is a Lion in England. He tells us who the Lions are quite well and he blogs about Talking Newspapers a lot.