Timeline of Helen Keller International
|Time period||Development summary||More details|
|1880–1968||Helen Keller lifetime||In her early months, Helen Keller from Tuscumbia, Alabama becomes blind and deaf due to an illness. Instructed by Anne Sullivan, she would be the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. This and other achievements lead Helen Keller to become the most famous disabled person in the world. Throughout her life, she would succeed as an author, political activist, and lecturer.|
|1915 onwards||Helen Keller International||HKI starts as an initiative by George Kessler and his wife, Cora Parsons Kessler, called Permanent Relief War Fund. In the 1920s the organization begins serving blind civilians, as well as military personnel, and also begins printing texts in Braille. In the 1950s, HKI evolves from treating blind people to working to prevent blindness. In the late 1960s the focus again broadens, this time toward blindness prevention and treatment. In the 1970s, HKI pioneers Vitamin A supplementation, which is successfully distributed to millions of children in developing countries, drastically reducing the number of cases of childhood blindness. Operations in Asia include Philippines and Bangladesh. In the 1980s HKI starts operations in several countries in Africa. Also in the decade, the organization develops a homestead gardening (HG) program to increase fruits and vegetables consumption after a blindness survey reveals that households with gardens are less likely to have children with night blindness.|
|21st century||Recent times||HKI expands operations into new countries, like Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Helen Keller Visionary Award is established in 2005. The Helen Keller Humanitarian Award is established in 2007. As of 2019, the organization spans 22 countries around the world. Over 200 million vitamin A capsules are provided by HKI to children in Africa. HKI is widely praised for its Vitamin A supplementation program, and is regarded as a top charity by evaluators.|
|1880||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller is born on June 27 in Tuscumbia, Alabama.||United States|
|1882||Helen Keller biography||At the age of 19 months, Helen Keller is afflicted with an illness (possibly scarlet fever) that leaves her blind and deaf.||United States|
|1887 (March)||Helen Keller biography||Anne Sullivan begins working with Helen Keller at the Keller's house.||United States|
|1903||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller publishes her first book, an autobiography called The Story of My Life.||United States|
|1904||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller graduates cum laude from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.||United States|
|1913||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller begins lecturing (with the aid of an interpreter), primarily on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind.||United States|
|1915||Early organization||American merchant and RMS Lusitania survivor George Kessler and his wife, Cora Parsons Kessler, organize in Paris the British, French, and Belgian Permanent Relief War Fund. As a survivor, and vowing to help veterans in some way, George Kessler eventually settles on helping those blinded in the war. He then recruits author and lecturer Helen Keller.||France|
|1919||Early organization||George Kessler, Cora Parsons Kessler, and Helen Keller form an American branch of the Permanent Relief War Fund called the Permanent Blind Relief War Fund for Soldiers and Sailors of the Allies, which is incorporated in New York City, with Keller and Cora Parsons Kessler as trustees.||United States|
|1920||Early organization||Helen Keller cofounds the American Civil Liberties Union with American civil rights activist Roger Nash Baldwin and others.||United States|
|1920||Leadership||George Kessler dies and is succeeded by New York lawyer William Nelson Cromwell, co-founder of Sullivan & Cromwell, an international law firm headquartered in New York City.||United States|
|1924||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller joins the American Foundation for the Blind. She would serve as a spokesperson and ambassador for the foundation until her death.||United States|
|1925||Assistance||The Permanent Relief War Fund begins serving blind civilians, as well as military personnel, and also begins printing texts in Braille, a writing system for the blind that uses raised dots. This prompts the name change to the American Braille Press for War and Civilian Blind.||United States|
|1937||Publication||The American Braille Press for War and Civilian Blind publishes the first “talking book”, becoming one of the leading publishers of Braille texts.||United States|
|1937||Program launch||The American Braille Press for War and Civilian Blind makes plans to aid soldiers who would inevitably be blinded in World War II.|
|1939||Background||World War II begins in Europe.||Europe|
|1946||Helen Keller biography||On behalf of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, Helen Keller begins touring internationally, expanding her advocacy for people with vision impairment. In 11 years, she would visit 35 countries on five continents.|
|1946||Renaming||The American Braille Press for War and Civilian Blind changes its name to the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, as its mission expands to include rehabilitation of the blind.|
|1946||Research/program||Helen Keller makes the first of many trips under the auspices of the Foundation to investigate the conditions and needs of blind people in all parts of the world.|
|1949||Conference||Spearheaded by the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, an International Conference of Workers for the Blind, attended by representatives of the United Nations and UNESCO is held. Resolutions are passed, stressing the need to give blind people the physical, psychological and technical means to take their place in society, with a particular emphasis on education.|
|1959||Program launch||The American Foundation for the Overseas Blind initiates the Helen Keller Crusade for the Blind, named to honor the leadership and inspiration she has given for many years. The purpose of the Crusade is to expand public awareness of and support of the Foundation’s programs.|
|1959||Recognition by HKI||The Spirit of Helen Keller Award is established, commemorating her legacy and expressing appreciation for her role as a founder, trustee and staff member of Helen Keller International.|
|1960||Recognition by HKI||Edwin Baker, founder of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1966||Conference||The First African Conference on Work for the Blind is held, prompting discussions about taking steps to prevent blindness while continuing to help those already afflicted.|
|1968||Recognition by HKI||George L. Raverat, director of the European Office of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1968||Helen Keller biography||Helen Keller dies at her home in Connecticut.||United States|
|1970||Recognition by HKI||British public health advocate John Wilson receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1971||Policy||HKI starts moving into the area of prevention, and becomes involved in the prevention and treatment of widespread vitamin A deficiency leading to xerophthalmia and keratomalacia.|
|1973||Recognition by HKI||James S. Adams, president of Research to Prevent Blindness, receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1975||Assistance||HKI starts working in the Philippines.||Philippines|
|1976||Recognition by HKI||John Ferre, United States Director of the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, receives posthumously the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1976||Publication||HKI publishes Xerophthalmia, a paper delivered to HKI's Board of Trustees by the WHO Medical Officer in charge of Nutrition Research.|
|1977||Renaming||The American Foundation for the Overseas Blind adopts the name Helen Keller International to honour Keller’s contributions to the organization and to the blind and disadvantaged.|
|1977||Recognition by HKI||UNICEF executive director Henry Richardson Labouisse Jr. receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1978||Publication||The World Health Organization, in collaboration with HKI, publishes the Field Guide to the Detection and Treatment of Xerophthalmia.|
|1978||Recognition by HKI||Eric T. Boulter, Director-General of the UK Royal National Institute for the Blind receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1978||Assistance||HKI starts working in Bangladesh.||Bangladesh|
|1979||Recognition by HKI||The International Association of Lions Clubs receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1980||Recognition to HK||The Helen Keller Day is innaugurated on June 27 as a commemorative holiday to celebrate the birth of Helen Keller. The holiday observance is created by presidential proclamation.|
|1980||Recognition by HKI||The United States Agency for International Development receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1980||Assistance||HKI initiates efforts aimed at integrating primary eye care into primary health care.|
|1980||Assistance||HKI supports six country programs with a budget of around US$1 million.|
|1982||Publication||HKI and WHO collaboratively publish the Technical Report Series No. 72, Control of Vitamin A Deficiency and Xerophthalmia.|
|1983||Recognition by HKI||Japanese businessman Ryoichi Sasakawa receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1984||International expansion||HKI establishes an office in Tanzania.||Tanzania|
|1986||Assistance||HKI starts its programs in Burkina Faso.|
|1987||Recognition by HKI||Indian ophthalmologist Govindappa Venkataswamy receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.||Burkina Faso|
|1988||Recognition by HKI||Dr. Christy (famous along with his wife, Dorothy, for their dedicated service to the cataract poor of Taxila, Pakistan receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1988||Program launch||HKI conducts a pilot Home Gardening project among 1,000 households in Bangladesh. Later in the early 1990s, based on the results and experience gained from this pilot project, HKI would start the NGO Gardening and Nutrition Education Surveillance Project (NGNESP).||Bangladesh|
|1988||Publication||HKI, in collaboration with World Food Programme and Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, compiles and publishes the first English version of a Food Composition Table (FCT) for Bangladesh named Tables of Nutrient Composition of Bangladeshi Foods, which includes old and new data from Bangladesh and some borrowed data from the Indian Food Composition Tables.||Bangladesh|
|1988||Assistance||HKI starts operating in Nepal.||Nepal|
|1989||Recognition by HKI||Merck & Co. and Dr. Susan T. Pettiss (Director of Vitamin A Program of Helen Keller International) receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1990||Program launch||HKI launches the Nutrition Surveillance Project (NSP) to monitor the health impact of severe flooding in Bangladesh. It is a collaborative effort which involves the Government of Bangladesh (GOB), international and local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO).||Bangladesh|
|1991||Recognition by HKI||Dr. Francisco Contreras (Director General of the Instituto Nacional de Oftalmología, Perú), Dr. Newton Kara Jose (Director of University of Campinas, Brazil), Hoffmann-La Roche Task Force, and the humanitarian nutrition think tank Sight and Life receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1992 (February)||Study||HKI convenes a meeting of concerned scientists, health officials, and policy makers to examine the role of vitamin A status on the health of children in developing countries.|
|1992||Assistance||HKI begins its activities in Cameroon with the fight against river blindness in Monatélé, Centre region.||Cameroon|
|1993||Program launch||Following the initial success of the Homstead Food Production program as a pilot project in Bangladesh with 1000 households participating, HKI launches the NGO Gardening and Nutrition Education Surveillance Project (NGNESP) which expands the program to communities across the country.|
|1993||Assistance||HKI starts collaborating with the Royal Government of Cambodia, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization in order to combat vitamin A deficiency through the distribution of vitamin A capsules (VAC).||Cambodia|
|1994||Recognition by HKI||Indonesian President Suharto, American diplomat J. Brian Atwood (Administrator of USAID), United States Congressman Tony P. Hall, and Donald H. Hubbs, (Chairman of The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation) receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1998||Recognition by HKI||Jansen Noyes III receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1999||International expansion||HKI opens an operating office in Burkina Faso.||Burkina Faso|
|1999||Recognition by HKI||Japanese writer Ayako Sono and South African activist Desmond Tutu receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|1999||Assistance||HKI starts supporting the Mali government’s efforts in the fight against malnutrition by implementing a wide range of activities including: Vitamin A supplementation, food fortification, essential nutrition actions and community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM).||Mali|
|2000||Assistance||HKI begins operating in Côte d'Ivoire.||Côte d'Ivoire|
|2000||Recognition by HKI||King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Gale Bensussen (president of Leiner Health Products), and John S. Crowley (Chairman Emeritus of Helen Keller Worldwide) receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|2000||Assistance||HKI starts its programs in Guinea in 2000 with an initial focus on nutrition.||Guinea|
|2001||Terrorist attack||HKI offices in New York City are destroyed during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. No employees were injured, although Helen Keller’s archives are lost.||United States|
|2002||International expansion||HKI establishes regional office for Africa in Dakar, Senegal.||Senegal|
|2002||Assistance||HKI begins working in Sierra Leone.||Sierra Leone|
|2003||Assistance||Indonesia’s Ministry of Education invites HKI to assist children with disabilities, especially those who are poor and in vulnerable situations.||Indonesia|
|2003||Assistance||HKI enables the distribution of Mectizan to over 2.5 million people across Africa.||Africa|
|2003||Assistance||HKI provides 34,000 free pairs of eyeglasses to students in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.||Mexico|
|2004||Assistance||Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, HKI distributes multi-micronutrient Sprinkles as part of the large-scale relief efforts.|
|2004||Partnership||HKI partners with the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) to provide eye glasses, support cataract surgeries, and distribute Vitamin A capsules in Indonesia.||Indonesia|
|2005||Recognition by HKI||The Helen Keller Visionary Award is established to recognize institutional friends "whose generosity and innovations advance" HKI mission. The Helen Keller Legacy Award is established to recognize the significant on-going support of an institution for the work of Helen Keller International.|
|2006||Recognition by HKI||International law firm Sullivan & Cromwell receives the Helen Keller Legacy Award. American ophthalmologist Alfred Sommer from Johns Hopkins University receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. The H. J. Heinz Company and William R. Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of the former, receive the Helen Keller Visionary Award.|
|2007||Recognition by HKI||The Helen Keller Humanitarian Award is established "to recognize the significant support of individuals or institutions for their sustained humanitarian efforts around the world."|
|2007||Recognition by HKI||Daniel G. Sisler, Ph.D, Retiring Chair of HKI Board of Trustees, receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. American global pharmaceutical company Allergan, Inc. and David E.I. Pyott, CBE, chairman of the board, and CEO of the former receive the Helen Keller Legacy Award.|
|2008||Recognition by HKI||Gordon and Llura Gund, co-founders of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Merck & Co. and its President & CEO Richard T. Clark, become the first recipients of The Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2009 (September)||Recognition to HKI||HKI receives the 2009 Champalimaud Award for its blindness prevention work in developing countries.|
|2009||Recognition to HKI||Consumers Digest lists HKI as one of America’s Top Charities. This distinction is awarded because its cost-effective fundraising.|
|2009||Recognition by HKI||American social entrepreneur David Green receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Johnson & Johnson and Brian D. Perkins, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Affairs, receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award. Christie’s Inc. and Christopher Burge, chairman of the former, receive the Helen Keller Legacy Award.|
|2010||Recognition by HKI||Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) receives the Helen Keller Visionary Award.|
|2011||Recognition||HKI is included in Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof’s "Gifts That Say You Care" holiday giving column. “Helen Keller International...gets more bang for the buck than almost any group I can think of.”|
|2011||Recognition by HKI||Reader’s Digest, Partners for Sight Foundation receives the Helen Keller Legacy Award. French retailer L'Occitane en Provence receives the Helen Keller Visionary Award.|
|2012||Recognition by HKI||American epidemiologist William Foege receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|2013||Recognition by HKI||United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award. HKI Board member Kate Ganz receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Barry Palmer, vice president of Lions Club International, receives the Helen Keller Visionary Award.|
|2013–2015||Assistance||HKI provides over 200 million vitamin A capsules to children 6-59 months of age in 13 African countries during this period.||Africa|
|2014||Recognition by HKI||Irish economist and humanitarian Tom Arnold receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2014||Recognition||HKI becomes the tenth recipient of the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership in recognition of its worldwide fight against blindness and malnutrition. The Award is accepted by Kathy Spahn, HKI's President & CEO.|
|2014||Recognition||Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities featuring the work of HKI.|
|2015 (February)||Recognition to HKI||HKI is selected to receive the 2015 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award.|
|2015 (May)||Recognition by HKI||Bill Gates and Melinda Gates receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Dr. David Nabarro, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2016||Recognition by HKI||Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Desmond Fitzgerald, founder of Hope for Poor Children Foundation, receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2016 (October)||Assistance||HKI and Christian development organization Effect:Hope start supporting Vitamin A Supplementation and deworming programs in the Kilifi, Kwale and Siaya counties in Kenya.|
|2017 (May)||Recognition by HKI||Jim Alling, CEO of global giving company TOMS, receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2017 (November 27)||Recognition||American charity evaluator GiveWell ranks HKI's vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program among its top charities for giving season 2017.|
|2018 (March)||Recognition by HKI||Yetnebersh Nigussie, Disability rights activist and inclusion advisor at Light for the World receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
|2018 (March)||Assistance||HKI assists poor families in Vietnam prevent malnutrition by growing healthy food on small homestead farms. The organization also trains community nutrition volunteers to educate families and caregivers about what to feed infants and young children to ensure they get the nutrients they need for healthy development.||Vietnam|
|2018 (April)||Partnership/contribution||HKI works in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Ivory Coast to provide children with Vitamin A supplements twice a year as part of the country’s regular health campaigns.||Ivory Coast|
|2018 (May)||Assistance||HKI launches emergency programs in Niger to improve sanitation and hygiene and prevent cholera outbreaks. The organization also distributed hygiene kits to vulnerable families.||Niger|
|2018 (July)||Assistance||HKI works with partners in Mozambique’s Tete Province to prevent malnutrition among children under the age of five—and to improve the status of women in the poorest rural communities—through agriculture.||Mozambique|
|2018 (September)||Assistance||HKI supports the Government of Cameroon to deliver mass distributions of invectin to prevent and treat onchocerciasis among at-risk populations. The organization completes a mass drug distribution campaign in Bafang District.||Cameroon|
|2018 (October)||Assistance||HKI trains teams of community health workers in Tanzania with the purpose to bring health services right to people’s doorsteps on home visits to improve nutrition among vulnerable mothers and young children in the Mtwara Region.||Tanzania|
|2018 (November)||Assistance||HKI assists rural communities in Cambodia to improve nutrition and increase their income through polyculture fish farming. Fish farmers are trained to raise several species of fish together in their ponds, with the purpose to increase their profits and help support the ecosystem.||Cambodia|
|2018||Recognition by HKI||Bradford Perkins, founder, chairman and CEO of Perkins Eastman Architects, receives the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award.|
|2018 (December 12)||Recognition||GiveWell recommends that US$6.5 million (about 10% of Good Ventures US$64 million grant for the year) be allocated to HKI’s vitamin A supplementation program.|
|2018 (December)||Assistance||HKI creates training groups of women farmers in Bangladesh with the purpose to increase harvests, improve profits marketing, generate more revenue for their families, and set up savings groups.||Bangladesh|
|2019||Recognition by HKI||Dr. Andrew S. Fisher and The Lavelle Fund for the Blind receive the Spirit of Helen Keller Award.|
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