Ngo’s Story: Training School Health Workers to Give the Gift of Clear Vision

Photo: c. HKI/USAID

Providing vision screenings for students in Vietnam.  Photo: c. HKI/USAID

“I did not know that both of my kids were suffering from vision problems,” said Ms. Ngo Thi Hoa, a school health worker at the small primary school in Vietnam that her children attend.  Once she noticed that the vision section of the general physical forms provided by her children’s school was left blank, she began to investigate further.   more…

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

Education For a Healthy Tomorrow


Neath reads a leaflet on the prevention of intestinal worms in class. Photo: ©HKI-Cambodia

We often take washing our hands and access to safe drinking water for granted, without realizing how critical these simple resources can be in saving the lives of others. Children in Cambodia rely on clean drinking water and hand washing to protect themselves from intestinal worms, which infect more than 70% of the country’s primary school children. more…

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Categories Asia-Pacific

7 Reasons Why Sierra Leone is Winning Against Neglected Tropical Diseases

by Dr. Mary Hodges, Country Director, Helen Keller International – Sierra Leone

The following article was published on The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network on June 24, 2014. It was originally commissioned as part of the Development Progress series.

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Despite poverty and a recent civil war, Sierra Leone has rapidly expanded treatment for NTDs. What can other countries learn?

The Lancet recently published a report on gains made towards reaching the 2020 neglected tropical disease (NTD) elimination goals set by the 2012 London declaration. Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone, in particular, has made incredible strides.

Before the current NTD control programme, approximately half of the districts saw over 50% of their children infected with schistosomiasis (snail fever) before they reached 14. By 2010 mass drug administration had reached, and has since maintained, 100% geographic coverage of those at risk of NTDs, outperforming neighbouring countries.

This rapid progress has been unexpected in the post-conflict setting. By the end of the rebel war in 2002, most health facilities were damaged, ill-equipped and their staff and communities traumatised. Many health professionals had been evacuated during the war and had little opportunity or incentives to return.

While sustained funding from USAid is one explanation behind the country’s success, other countries like Nigeria, with strong funding and better resourced health sectors and public communications systems, have not made the same level of progress. So why has progress in NTD control in Sierra Leone been so swift? Here are some key lessons behind Sierra Leone’s success. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

What’s In A Name? Honoring A Legend

little helen keller

Lina with her daughter, Little Helen Keller
Photo: © HKI

Helen Keller once said, “When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” As we approach what would have been Helen’s 134th birthday, we are reminded of her positive impact and lasting legacy through the stories of people whose lives have been transformed by Helen Keller International’s programs.

Lina and her family live in a small village in Indonesia where fish and eggs are rare, expensive, and often reserved for special occasions. Every day Lina’s three children, including her nine-month-old daughter, ate meals that consisted of boiled cassava leaves and papaya flowers, which are low in essential nutrients that help children develop healthy bodies and immune systems. Thanks to Helen Keller International’s Homestead Food Production program, Lina learned how to cultivate a home garden filled with leafy, nutrient-rich vegetables, as well as how to raise chickens and farm catfish.

The Helen Keller International team also taught Lina and other mothers in her village how to prepare the catfish they raised. And not only did the HKI team teach the mothers how to cook their food, but also why- promoting an understanding of the specific nutritional benefits that were to be gained by their families. They cooked catfish porridge with vegetables and learned to prepare other delicious meals that Lina can be sure will help her family grow healthy and strong.  Lina feels empowered by her newly gained knowledge: “Now I can make food for my daughter that is easy to cook, tasty and nutritious, and not too expensive.”

Inspired by the impact of Homestead Food Production on her family’s life and in appreciation for the knowledge she received from Helen Keller International, Lina named her youngest daughter Helen Keller, a tribute to our famous founder.

Honor Helen Keller’s legacy by helping us to continue reaching families like Lina’s with your gift today.

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Witnessing Helen Keller’s Legacy in Children Around the World


Photo: © HKI

As the birthday of our founder, Helen Keller, approaches on June 27, it’s important to remember the millions of children around the world today who share Helen’s strength and courage. Like Helen, many children face seemingly insurmountable odds. By empowering them with the proper tools and access to help we can give these children the opportunity to let their intelligence and ambition shine, and the chance to reach their full potential in the classroom and beyond.

One of these children is Andhika, an 11-year-old boy from East Java, Indonesia, who was born visually-impaired. Andhika lives with his family in an area typically reserved for refugees and disaster survivors. His school did not previously integrate students with special needs into the mainstream classrooms. Andhika’s challenges sometimes prevented him from attending school at all. With the help of Helen Keller International’s Opportunities for Vulnerable Children (OVC) program, the teachers and administration at Andhika’s school received special training to help kids like Andhika make the most of their education and allow them to learn and grow alongside their peers without disabilities.

Now, teachers and fellow students in Andhika’s community are eager to support their schoolmates by making extra efforts wherever they can. For instance, Andhika’s principal used funds from the school’s operational budget to provide for Andhika’s transportation to and from school- due to the far distance between school and his home. During breaks, some students voluntarily take turns accompanying Andhika to the common area and around school. Andhika’s aunt expressed joy in seeing her nephew be able to go to school, and to finally be able to go every day.

The spirit of Andhika’s community echoes the famous words of Helen Keller: “The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”

Help children like Andhika reach their full potential with your donation to Helen Keller International.

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Running to Save Sight


Photos: c. HKI/Chad Haas

Born in rural Minnesota, Lisa Reeck decided on a whim to participate in a half marathon in 2009.  That race sparked a passion in Lisa, and running quickly became a constant source of inspiration in her life, through good times and bad.

When Lisa’s mother began to lose her vision and was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy a few years ago, Lisa felt compelled to help others who also experience vision loss.


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Categories Preventing Blindness, United States

Clear Vision for a Whole Family


A mother living in Corona, Queens, Rosa has three sons, all of whom wear glasses. With a single pair of glasses easily costing hundreds of dollars, Rosa struggled to provide her children with the vision care that they need — annual eye exams, prescription lenses, and new frames if glasses get lost or broken. more…

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Categories United States

International Women’s Day

by Ramona Ridolfi


HKI and WorldFish International Women’s Day event. Photo: c. HKI

Rooted in the centuries-old struggle for gender equality, International Women’s Day celebrates ordinary women as makers of history.

In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

Since then this special day has integrated a new global dimension: the growing international women’s movement.  This movement has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, and International Women’s Day has evolved to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.


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Categories Asia-Pacific, Reducing Malnutrition, Uncategorized

Continuing Helen Keller’s Legacy in Indonesia

This blog was written by HKI’s Director of Communications after a recent field visit to Indonesia.

Merilya Wanti, a resource teacher in Jakarta, works with two students as part of Helen Keller International's Opportunities for Vulnerable Children program.  Photo: c. HKI

Merilya Wanti, a resource teacher in Jakarta, works with two students as part of Helen Keller International’s Opportunities for Vulnerable Children program.
Photo: c. HKI

Most of us living in the United States take the freedom and ability to attend school for granted.  Over the past 100 years, great strides have been made to ensure that all children, regardless of who they are or where they come from, have access to public education, as well as the opportunity to learn and grow through all that it offers.

However, for many children living with disabilities in other parts of the world this is not the case.  In fact, of the estimated 1.5 million children in Indonesia who live with disabilities, fewer than 4% have access to any educational services.  Historically, Indonesia offered very few options for students with special needs children.  If one of these schools was too far for a small child to commute to every day, that child often stayed home and received no formal education at all.


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Categories Asia-Pacific

1000 Days of Support

Traditional Birth Attendants who received Essential Nutrition Training through HKI. Photo: c. HKI

This blog was written by HKI Bangladesh field intern, Hannah Taylor.

The thousand days between conception and a child’s second birthday is the most crucial period for physical development. During this time, appropriate nutrition for the mother and child, including the right quantity of energy-rich foods and a diverse diet of micronutrients, helps to ensure healthy physical growth and development. However, inadequate nutrition during this stage of a child’s development has severe health consequences lasting into adulthood. Undernourished children face higher risks of blindness, anemia, thyroid diseases, acute and chronic infections and the potential for lifelong stunting. While Bangladesh has seen significant improvement in infant mortality and undernutrition in children in the last two decades, the International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research, Bangladesh estimates that 41% of children under five years old in Bangladesh remain underweight. more…

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Categories Asia-Pacific