USAID and Lions Clubs International Celebrate International Literacy Day, Promote Inclusive Education

For Immediate Release

Monday, September 9, 2013
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320

Washington, DC – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Lions Clubs International (LCI) have launched their first joint in-country activity in Macedonia dedicated to improving literacy among children with disabilities.

 Christie Vilsack, USAID Senior Advisor for International Education, and Linda Madden, wife of Wayne Madden, the 2012-13 Chairperson of Lions Clubs International, are attending events to celebrate International Literacy Day and the global partnership, September 9-11, including a public event at a local library in Washington, D.C., a visit to the South Jersey Eye Center in Camden, N.J., and a vision screening demo at the Georgia Lions Lighthouse for the Blind in Atlanta, GA

 This project builds on the Memorandum of Understanding between LCI and USAID signed on June 26, 2012, to promote reading among young children with disabilities.  “USAID is known for its commitment to teaching every child to read in developing countries,” said Vilsack, “Lions Clubs International is known for its volunteerism on behalf of sight impaired children.  Combine USAID and Lions in a country like Macedonia and you can count on results: training teachers to identify children who need glasses, referring children with more serious sight problems, translating reading materials into Braille and providing local support for families.”

 Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world. LCI’s 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs are serving communities in 207 countries and geographical areas around the globe. Since 1917, Lions Clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives and strengthened local communities through hands-on service and humanitarian projects.  “Lions have made a significant commitment to supporting the visually impaired and promoting literacy around the world. Our project in Macedonia brings both of these important initiatives together to help children who need us most,” said Lions Clubs International Foundation Chairperson Wayne Madden.

 Students with disabilities represent one of the largest cohorts of children who do not attend school. In fact, one-third of out of school children in developing countries have a disability and recent research shows that disability is a stronger indicator of nonenrollment than either gender or class.

 USAID’s Education Strategy is based on the premise that education is foundational to human development and critical to broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction.  A key goal  is to improve reading for children in primary grades and provide access to education for children and youth.  Since early grade reading competency is essential to success in later grades, children who do not learn to read at an early age will likely make limited educational progress throughout their lives.

 Since early 2010, USAID/Macedonia has worked to increase opportunities for primary school students with disabilities to access education, mainly by pioneering the use of assistive technology via the e-Accessible Education project. In partnership with a local organization, Open the Windows, USAID/Macedonia has introduced an assortment of assistive computer peripheral devices and provided teacher training on how to use information technology to enhance the skills of students with disabilities that attend regular classes. In addition, through the Youth Employability Skills Network, USAID/Macedonia will build the capacity of NGOs of youth with disabilities, the Employment Services Agency (ESA) and secondary schools in selected municipalities to better serve youth with disabilities who are completing their secondary education, or who have registered as unemployed and are seeking work. Staff from the NGOs, ESA and schools will be taught how to advocate for and provide youth with disabilities with structured training in employability skills, work-based learning opportunities, and career counseling services so they can be competitive on the labor market and have equal employment opportunities.

 For more information about USAID’s education programs, please visit http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/education.

 For more information about Lions Clubs International, please visit www.lionsclubs.org.

Last updated: November 21, 2014

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