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Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International (HKI) is among the oldest international nonprofit organizations devoted to fighting and treating preventable blindness and malnutrition. HKI is headquartered in New York City, and has programs in 22 countries around the world. HKI builds local capacity by establishing sustainable programs, and provides scientific and technical assistance and data to governments and international, regional, national and local organizations around the world.
HKI programs combat malnutrition, cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and refractive error. The goal of all HKI programs is to reduce suffering of those without access to needed health or vision care and ultimately, to help lift people from poverty.
The mission of Helen Keller International 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. Our vision is to strive to be the most scientifically competent organization in improving vision and nutrition throughout the world.
Founded in 1915 by Lusitania survivor George Kessler, with Helen Keller as a founding trustee the initial purpose of the agency was to provide rehabilitation services to soldiers blinded during World War I. In the 1970s, the agency shifted its focus to blindness prevention and through its work in vitamin A deficiency, the leading cause of childhood blindness, began to implement programs in nutrition with a focus on micronutrients. The two pillars of the organization's programs continue to be are eye health and nutrition.
In Eye Health, HKI currently addresses: Onchocerciasis (river blindness), by distributing ivermectin and providing information, education and community assistance in nine countries throughout Africa; Trachoma, by implementing the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy, and offering school- and community-based education, training, and activities throughout Africa and in Nepal; Cataract, by training surgeons, nurses, and community health workers, setting up Direct Referral Services, and providing surgeries in Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam; and Refractive Error, by offering ChildSight®, which provides vision screenings, refractions, eyeglasses, and referrals for students in the U.S. and Indonesia.
In Nutrition, HKI’s current programs include: Vitamin A Supplementation, to prevent blindness, enhance child survival, and promote healthy development throughout Africa and Asia; Nutritional Surveillance, the collection and analysis of critical nutritional data for governments and other development partners to influence policy and shape program design in Bangladesh and Indonesia; Food Fortification, the enrichment of commonly-used food products, such as wheat flour, cooking oil or soy sauce with essential vitamins and minerals, throughout Africa and in Indonesia; Multi-micronutrient Supplementation, the promotion and distribution of Vitalita®, sachets with 14 vitamins and minerals that are sprinkled on food in Indonesia; Iron Supplementation, to avoid iron deficiency and control anemia throughout Africa; and Production and Consumption of Micronutrient-rich Food: Homestead Food Production, the creation of gardens and small poultry farms to simultaneously promote economic independence while providing a source of nutrient -rich foods in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines; and Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato Cultivation, to promote the cultivation and consumption of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes to improve food security and combat vitamin A deficiency in Burkina Faso and Mozambique.
We operate in three regions (Africa, Asia and the Americas), encompassing twenty-two nations. Each year, our programs directly benefit tens of millions of people. Our two major areas of focus are: Eye Health and Nutrition. We work with governments and partners to create sustainable solutions for problems that threaten the sight and survival of children and adults.
In addition to maintaining our core programs, HKI has begun expansion and integration plans for several important programs: the treatment and prevention of malnutrition in Africa’s fragile Sahel region; food fortification in West Africa; micronutrient supplementation in Indonesia and China; and family health in the Philippines.
HKI is also expanding our school health programs. HKI has provided eye health and nutrition education through School Health since 2001, and we currently implement School Health programs in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger and Tanzania. HKI develops integrated programs specific to the lives of school-aged children that can address malnutrition, anemia, trachoma, refractive error, and proper eye care. Through School Health, HKI creates an intervention that begins with children and expands to encompass the health behaviors of whole communities and future generations – learning that will save sight, save lives, and improve the living conditions of millions.
As a leading agency in nutrition programs, HKI is also bringing our nutritional expertise to children and adults living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. HKI is expanding and adapting our Homestead Food Production programs to help communities with high HIV prevalence establish year-round production systems of vegetables and fruit, as well as eggs, poultry and other animal foods rich in micronutrients.
Kathy Spahn is a seasoned executive with significant experience in non-profit organizations related to eye health and nutrition. She joined Helen Keller International in 2005 as President and Chief Executive Officer, responsible for global strategy and management of this international development organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness and malnutrition. Headquartered in New York City, HKI has an operating budget of $30 million and has programs in 22 countries.
She has also served as President and Executive Director of ORBIS International, a global non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of blindness in the developing world; and Executive Director of God’s Love We Deliver, a New York-based AIDS service organization dedicated to combating malnutrition and hunger among people living with HIV/AIDS.
Ms. Spahn currently serves on the boards of directors of InterAction, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and The Bernadotte Foundation for Children’s Eyecare. She is a Founding Board member of both the North America chapter of IAPB and the Association of Nutrition Services Agencies (ANSA).
Bradford Perkins, FAIA, MRAIC, AICP (Chairman)
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Phone: (212) 532-0544
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100 Vitamin A Capsules
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