Lions act as ‘knights of the blind’.
Kanata Hazeldean Lions Club member and former Kanata South councillor Peggy Feltmate tests a student’s vision on Feb. 20. The Lions Club is offering free, voluntary eye tests at area schools.
The ability to see clearly is something the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club is hoping to provide to all area children.
The Glen Cairn-based club has been offering free, voluntary vision screening for children in grades 1, 5 and 8 at various local schools for the past two years.
“We want to do as many schools as possible,” said club secretary Naomi Nakamura. “It’s a really good program.”
The Lions Club is approved by both the Ottawa public and Catholic school boards, and the volunteers have completed appropriate training.
On Feb. 20, volunteers tested 50 students at W.O. Mitchell Elementary School before the lunch hour.
Eighty per cent of what children learn comes from their eyes and vision, according to the Lions Club screening program, and it’s estimated one in six children has a vision problem.
During the 2011-12 school year, the club screened 248 students in four Kanata schools. They found 77 children with vision issues.
“Eyes need to be tested,” said Nakamura. “It’s a community service (we’re providing).”
The club is hoping more schools will come forward to request the vision screening.
“We would be pleased to go to any school,” said Lions Club member and former Kanata South councillor Peggy Feltmate. “No child should be without glasses if they need them.”
For families that can’t afford corrective glasses, the Lions may be able to provide assistance.
With written parental permission, volunteers from the club test students with three comprehensive vision tests:
* Far visual acuity eye chart
* Alignment stereo fly test
* Colour blindness test
If the child is unable to complete the testing, the Lions send a letter home to the parents recommending the student receive a complete eye and vision exam.
The vision screening is not a complete eye exam by a doctor but it’s “designed to identify children who have trouble seeing things at a distance, up close or who have difficulty making both eyes work together,” according to the Lions report.
KNIGHTS OF THE BLIND
The Lions Clubs International was founded in 1917, and in 1925 Helen Keller challenged the Lions to be “knights of the blind.”
Since then, the clubs’ primary service goal is to reduce blindness and vision problems around the world.
Aside from offering vision screenings, the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club collects used eye glasses and travels to remote and developing areas, providing testing and glasses to those who need them.
“The Lions are known as knights of the blind,” said Nakamura. “This is a big part of what we do.”
Kanata-Hazeldean Lions member Tom Feltmate recently spent two weeks in Guyana, providing vision tests and glasses to people in two communities. Eighteen Lions from across Canada participated in two clinics, one in Corriverton, a small town on the Atlantic Ocean and the other in Orealla, a village on the Corentyne River.
“In the team there were five optometrists, three opticians, two nurses – looking for diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which may cause vision issues – and seven assisting volunteers, three of whom were born in Guyana,” said Tom in an email. “We brought with us approximately 3,000 pair of (used) glasses and eight cases of diagnostic equipment for the clinic.”
The Lions examined more than 1,100 people in the first community and found 70 per cent were in need of glasses for both distance vision and for reading, said Tom.
“While a very few might have been able to afford glasses on their own, the majority were simply too poor to consider glasses,” he added. “To purchase glasses in Guyana would cost the equivalent of three to four months of their annual income.”
In the second village, the group had hoped to see 800 people, but only 450 came by foot or by boat during the three-day clinic.
“This was partly due to the extreme weather we experience throughout the three days, consisting of all-day rain interspersed with periods of torrential downpours,” said Tom. “The Amerindian population was a much more healthy population than those we saw in Corriverton. However they were certainly in need of glasses with 80 per cent receiving corrective lenses.”
Over the two week period, about 15 to 20 people left the clinics without glasses because there were no matches in the donated eye wear.
“Their prescriptions were taken back to Canada so that appropriate glasses could be prepared and shipped back to Guyana at a later date,” said Tom.
Since 1990, more than $415 million has been raised and spent by Lions around the world for the vision programs.
Over the past 20 years, the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club has collected, sorted and washed thousands of pairs of glasses for use in the eye care clinics, said Tom.
“It is truly a humbling sight to see folks with severely impaired vision leave the clinic with confidence in their steps and with a huge smile on their faces.”
The Lions Club is hosting an open house on April 9, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lion Dick Brule Community Centre, 170 Castlefrank Rd.
The open house will detail the community works hosted by the club, including:
* Vision screening
* Annual winter carnival
* Kanata Santa Claus parade
* Community euchre games
* Local events
For more information, visit kanatalions.lionwap.org.