Before she was known to the world as Dr. Helena Ndume, Chief of Ophthalmology at Windhoek Central Hospital in Namibia and partner with SEE International, she had a dream of helping those in need.
Forced to flee her homeland in the Oshikoto region of Namibia at the age of 15, Helena started a new life living in the South West Africa People’s Organization’s (SWAPO) liberation camps in Zambia and Angola. The organization sent her to the Gambia in West Africa, where she completed secondary school. Motivated to serve those less fortunate due to the civil unrest that she witnessed as a child, she attended medical school in Germany through the support of SWAPO to help those in need.
In 1995, Dr. Ndume met with the founder of SEE International, and together they worked toward reversing preventable blindness in Namibia. “For so many people, living with preventable blindness makes all the difference in whether or not they survive or starve,” Dr. Ndume said.
Since then, Dr. Ndume has dedicated her life and career to treating blindness and low vision, both in Namibia and throughout the developing world. She has performed more than 35,000 eye surgeries free of charge in her home country of Namibia, Angola, and around the world.
For her dedication to humanitarian service and medical contributions to the world, Dr. Helena Ndume will be presented with the 2022 Lions Humanitarian Award during the 104th Lions Clubs International Convention on June 28, 2022.
The Lions Humanitarian Award, the association’s highest honor, is given to an individual or an organization with exemplary humanitarian efforts and comes with a Lions Clubs International Foundation grant of up to US$250,000 to a charitable organization for continuing humanitarian activities. Dr. Ndume joins a distinguished list of prior recipients, including Mother Teresa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege.
“We are truly honored to present this award to Dr. Ndume, whose work is changing lives and making a profound impact on the world,” said Lions Clubs International President Douglas X. Alexander. “Ever since Helen Keller challenged Lions to help preserve the precious gift of sight in 1925, Lions’ work continues in preventing avoidable blindness and improving the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired.”
Dr. Ndume continues to partner with SEE International, whose network of volunteers consists of more than 650 ophthalmologists and medical professionals from 80 different countries. She principally treats cataracts, glaucoma and allergic conjunctivitis, restoring sight to thousands of individuals who would otherwise face enduring pain and hardship due to their condition. Dr. Ndume’s relentless drive, unyielding commitment, and inclusive vision make her an outstanding nominee and true hero.
“I am truly honored to receive the Lions Humanitarian Award,” said Dr. Ndume. “My biggest goal in life is to end preventable blindness and to build a team of committed young people that will continue to fight against it, so even when I am not here, they will carry on that mission.”
Learn more about the Lions Humanitarian Award and see our list of winners at lionsclubs.org/humanitarian-winners.
Want to hear Dr. Ndume tell her inspiring story in person? Then register for the 2022 Lions International Convention in Montréal today.