The Lions Club of Denver in Colorado, USA, arrived in Ethiopia on January 25, 2019, to conduct an eyesight screening campaign. Six Lions made the journey to Africa and were accompanied by another eight volunteers from the United States; four members of the group from the US are of Ethiopian descent.
The campaign focused its service mostly on schoolchildren and other residents in the towns of Ebinat, Axum, Arba Minch, Shashamane and Shone. In all, we saw 736 patients, 340 of whom were children. Denver Lions brought 4,400 pairs of eyeglasses collected by the Colorado Lions Recycle for Sight program. The schoolchildren and others were tested and then fitted on-site with eyeglasses, as needed. The group saw nearly 720 patients over 8 days of testing.
Denver Lions volunteers included:
Mel Tewahade of Ethiopia, who was the primary organizer, with help from his Ethiopian contacts Adu Worku in Ebinat and Pochi Seifu in Shone, among others;
Past President Myrna Ann Adkins, past Executive Director of The Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning in Denver and a participant in screening campaigns in Ecuador and Mongolia;
President Susy Osorio-Kinsky and Past President Steve Kinsky, who have conducted eyesight screening campaigns in Ecuador, Senegal, Rwanda, Nepal, Mongolia and Mexico; and Past President Ned Nagle, who has also participated at screenings in Ecuador and Mongolia; and
Carla Osorio, Susy’s daughter and a Latino Lions Branch Club member who has also participated at screenings in Haiti, Senegal and Mongolia.
Other volunteers included notably Dr Sue Benes, an ophthalmologist from Buena Vista, Colorado, who spent much of her career in academia at Ohio State University and has done research and clinical work around the world in places like Kenya, Ecuador and the Middle East. Also participating were Olivia Bartlett, RN, Dr Benes’ daughter; Hilleary Waters, newspaper owner and friend of Lion Bob Sweeney; and Emebet Getahun, a Denver resident and work colleague of both Myrna Ann and Susy at Spring Institute.
Several of Mel Tewahade’s friends and clients also participated: Johnny Corbin of Tuscumbia, Alabama, the hometown of Helen Keller; Brian Penick, a radiology consultant from Delta, Colorado; Ethiopian Abby Tizale, RN; Ethiopian KB Workie, a professional basketball player; and mortgage broker Lainey Hamrick.
Lions Club of Denver volunteers were perhaps once again motivated by the adage: ”In life, you need to breathe to survive, but you need to see to thrive” and the byline: “Seeing the World with Different Eyes.” They saw this recent trip to Ethiopia as a way to demonstrate the Club’s capacity for bringing different cultures of the world together through humanitarian service.
In addition to their humanitarian work, the volunteers also found time to visit multiple tourist attractions in Northern Ethiopia, including Emperor Fasilides’ Castle in Gondar, Simien National Park, World Heritage sites in Denver’s Sister City Axum, and Saint George Church in Lalibela. On their final night in Ethiopia they were hosted for dinner by the Lions Club of Addis Ababa Host.
The team of volunteers spent more than 3 weeks in total in Ethiopia.
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