By Jane Morse, Staff Writer, IIP Digital (Managed by the U.S. Department of State)
Potomac Lions Club President Kambiz Molkara (left) and club member Amir Fouladgar man a fundraising ice cream sale.
Washington - Providing free eyesight and hearing screenings to those in need are among the many charitable contributions being made by a group of Iranian Americans living in the Washington metropolitan area.
“It’s our way of showing our appreciation for the opportunities we have gotten here” in the United States, said Maryam Asdjodi-Mohadjer.
Asdjodi-Mohadjer is a director with the Potomac, Virginia, chapter of the Lions Clubs International, a nonpolitical, nonreligious organization with 1.3 million members in 200 countries. The Potomac Lions Club is unique in that almost all of its members are Iranian-American. And while membership may be relatively small - close to 30 - the club boasts of big accomplishments.
“Last year we collected more than 750 eyeglasses for the needy and provided free eye and hearing screenings for 120 individuals in just one day,” Asdjodi-Mohadjer said. The club also provides financial support to the SightFirst Program, which provides cataract surgeries and eye care for thousands of adults and children who cannot afford to pay for such services.
Lions clubs worldwide are known for their work to end preventable blindness and provide aid to those who are blind or visually impaired. Founded in 1917, the association of clubs took up the cause of the visually impaired in 1925. That was the year Helen Keller, who gained world fame for her remarkable struggle to overcome blindness and deafness, attended the association’s international convention and challenged its members to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
The Potomac Lions Club, according to Asdjodi-Mohadjer, was founded in 2007 by Ali Aghakhan, whose father had been in a Lions Club in Iran. “He [Ali Aghakhan] asked his friends and their families to join, and then their friends brought other friends,” she said. Membership evolved to be primarily Iranian-American, “but we don’t have any restrictions” on members’ ethnic backgrounds, Asdjodi-Mohadjer said.
A Potomac Lions Club bus is ready to take people for vision and hearing screenings. This one is from the Lions Club's District 22-C.
The club’s social activities honor American and Iranian traditions. “We usually have one Christmas get-together and one Persian New Year’s get-together each year,” Asdjodi-Mohadjer said.
While helping the visually impaired is a large part of the club’s charitable activities, the group has also provided food for local homeless shelters, blankets for the homeless, Christmas gifts for needy children, support for Alzheimer’s research and environmental cleanup.
“We like to show that we are productive and contributing members of the societies and communities that we have become a part of,” Asdjodi-Mohadjer said.
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