Our press kit provides reporters and other media professionals with resources and key information about HKI’s work.
Get to know HKI's President and CEO Kathy Spahn.
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Stories from the Field
- Sierra Leone, located in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world.
- Sierra Leone ranks highest in under five mortality, meaning that only 3 out of 10 children do not live to see their 5th birthday.
- HKI visited a blind school in the city of Bo and witnessed heartbreaking conditions: two dorms with old, stained mattresses, broken windows and torn mosquito nets. Only older children are here because the school doesn’t have enough money to take in younger students.
- Many of these blind children suffered from vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which either resulted in their blindness or made their immune systems susceptible to blindness from causes such as measles.
- Sadly, just two doses of high-potency vitamin A capsules are needed every year to prevent VAD. The total cost of delivering the vitamin A is just $1.00 per child per year. HKI’s role in Sierra Leone is to ensure that the capsules reach those most in need.
- HKI also met adults in Sierra Leone blind from a disease called onchocerciasis, or river blindness, an excruciating affliction that is caused by worms that infest the body.
- One man, blind from onchocerciasis, was valiantly trying to support his family by doing umbrella repairs.
- HKI’s work in Sierra Leone is to help train and mobilize networks of community volunteers to get Mectizan® (ivermectin), the drug that prevents and treats onchocerciasis, to people who need it. Merck & Co., Inc. has committed to donating Mectizan® wherever it is needed as long as it is needed.
- Today, there are 30,000 dedicated volunteers in Sierra Leone who are reaching 90% of their local population with this sight-saving medicine.
- In a May 2008 article, Nick Kristof wrote that, “Americans sometimes don’t want to help poor countries because of doubts about whether aid works. There are legitimate doubts . . . but there also are extraordinary triumphs that don’t get attention.” He was travelling with HKI staff in Sierra Leone when he wrote these words.
Our mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health and nutrition.
We envision a world where…
- No one suffers from preventable or treatable blindness or low vision;
- No one suffers from under-nutrition; and
- Fewer people suffer loss of their productive years due to disability and premature death…
To accomplish this, HKI builds the capacity of local governmental, civil society and private sector systems and infrastructure, and promotes the development of sustained, large scale programs that deliver effective preventative and curative eye health and nutrition services. These services are integrated into ongoing programs and initiatives, and are delivered in cost-effective and practical ways that take into account actual community health needs and local realities. Their design is firmly rooted in scientific evidence.
Founded in 1915 by Helen Keller and George Kessler, Helen Keller International (HKI) is among the oldest international nonprofit organizations devoted to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. Headquartered in New York City, HKI is dedicated to working worldwide in 22 countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the United States.
HKI builds local capacity to combat blindness and malnutrition by establishing low-cost, sustainable programs. We also provide scientific and technical assistance, as well as research and data to governments and international, regional, national and local organizations around the world to help expand current approaches and develop effective new approaches.
Click here to read more about Our History.