Saving childhood blindness

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 19:00

As we begin the new year, I have a heartwarming story of how Lions saved the sight of a young child in Ecuador. Lions across Alaska are very generous with their donations to Lions International for cure to blindness not only here but across the world.

Here’s a story from the Lions Club International Foundation website:

Carlos was born blind in both eyes from cataracts. For the first three years of his life, he and his parents were shuffled from one clinic to the next, spending all their savings on eye exams.

Out of desperation, they even sold their car. His father recalls, “We kept getting sent to different doctors, who took their money but did nothing. In Ecuador, there is no health system for the poor. People are left to die on the streets.”

Carlos was one of the estimated 1.4 million children around the world are blind, yet the vision of 75 percent of these children could have been saved if they only had access to effective eye care.

Accounting for 21 percent of total cases of blindness in Latin America, childhood blindness is especially prevalent in countries like Ecuador.

But darkness was not in five-year-old Carlos’ future. Through a regular screening offered by Lions, his family heard about the Metrofraternidad Foundation (FMF), a Lions funded childhood blindness center in Ecuador. Carlos received surgery that restored his vision.

Part of a SightFirst and World Health Organization joint initiative, FMF is one of 34 needs-based pediatric Lions eye care centers around the world committed to eliminating avoidable blindness in children. Since the Lions started supporting FMF in 2003, the number of children treated each year has risen steadily from 500 to more than 1,500 annually.

Today, young Carlos enjoys going to school and playing with friends. He still receives treatment for Strabismus, which developed after the cataract surgeries, but his vision continues to improve.

“If it weren’t for the FMF, my son would still be blind,” said his father, grateful for the intervention of Lions.


Lions are committed to saving sight in not only children but also everyone. Volunteers travel around the state providing vision screening at no cost to the patients.

Locally, Lions purchased a trailer, which travels from Anchorage to Palmer to Willow to Glennallen and beyond to see to the needs throughout Alaska. Lions have the Aurora Borealis Eye Glass Recycling Center in North Pole, which is dedicated to vision screening and recycling eyeglasses to the needy.

If you would like to learn more about being a Lion or our various programs, call Karen Burns at 242-1129. If you have a child who would like to participate in our youth program, call Karen, as our youth are busy each week making their community better.

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