Saturday, April 12, 2008

Seeing globally...

Last Monday, I had the great pleasure of speaking with the Camden Lions Club with member Jon Kuhl and his wife, Helen, who were both with us in Colombia. I shared my experiences working with deafblind people in Colombia and told them about how I learned about the Lions Club on an international level because of the great help they've been to us at Fundación Formemos and Jon and Helen shared their thoughts on ways that Global Opportunity Garden and the Camden Lions Club could team up to help finance vision screenings for rural and displaced children in Colombia. Above, Jon and Helen are pictured during one of the home visits in the community surrounding the Foundation, and below you'll find an article published in the Camden Herald about our presentation to the Lions Club.

Camden Lions see globally with eyeglass campaign

(Created: Sunday, April 6, 2008 4:13 AM EDT)

CAMDEN — The Camden Lions Club had a first-hand look, recently, at how their organization’s eyeglasses recycling program benefits people in need in other countries, and it has been proposed that the Club help fund eye-care programs in a community in Columbia for one year.

Alison McKellar, left, and president of Camden Lions Club Teddy Wilcox. Reprints available online at KIM LINCOLN
Alison McKellar, 23, of Camden, who runs an organization called Global Opportunity Garden, was the guest speaker at the April 1 Lions meeting.

She created her organization after spending six months in Columbia in 2005, volunteering at a farm and school for children who have been displaced by violence in the country.

While there she also worked with an organization that helped deaf blind children, but found that the displaced children at the school were having difficulty with their vision, too.

Through the help of a Lions Club in Bogotá, Columbia, she helped to get 230 children eye exams, and 30 of them were given eyeglasses. The cost was $1,122.

One of the Lions Club’s missions is to conduct vision screenings, support eye hospitals and participate in an eyeglasses recycling program. More than one million pairs of eyeglasses have been collected by Lions Clubs in Maine and distributed to third-world countries, according to club members.

After McKellar came home from Columbia and began telling people about her trip, and what she had accomplished, she found support in this community from people that wanted to help. That’s when Global Opportunity Garden was founded. She then began organizing a group trip to Columbia.

Camden Lions Club member Jon Kuhl and his wife Helen were in the group. Also traveling from this area were Anna Sideris, Meredith Ralston, Sasha Felix, Eliza Massey and Laurie Lane.

Jon Kuhl said that he was very impressed by the ocular center in Bogotá. For $25 people could get their eyes examined, get a prescription and be fitted for glasses. Kuhl has proposed that the Camden Lions Club help fund eye-care programs in Columbia for one-year. The club is still thinking about the idea.

Now back home, McKellar has been speaking with different organizations to inform them about Global Opportunity Garden, and hopes to match up more organizations and their causes to areas with the need.

Global Opportunity Garden also has a digital photography initiative that delivers digital cameras and training in photojournalism in areas of extreme poverty and violent conflict in Columbia.

McKellar is also working with students at the Riley School in Rockport who have helped raise money and also started a letter writing campaign to the students at the Columbian farm school.

For more information about McKellar’s organization, log on to

And as part of the Lions regular club work, members will be collecting used glasses at The Green Fair at Plants Unlimited on Route 1 in Rockport, April 19. They also have a drop box outside their facility on Lions Lane in Camden.

(Kim Lincoln can be reached at

The original article can be found at:

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