A Living Legacy
Helen Keller International, co-founded by Helen in 1915, is one of the world’s premier international nonprofit organizations dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. Working in 20 countries, we combat the root causes and extended consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing cost-effective and sustainable programs that are based on scientific evidence, original research and—inspired by Helen’s example—an unwavering determination to succeed against challenges that are too often seen as insurmountable.
Our ongoing efforts have wide-ranging, positive results for the people we serve, providing them with the means to improve their own lives and communities. We remain committed to this mission because, as Helen herself said:
“The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”
A Brief Biographical Timeline
1880: On June 27, Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
1882: Following a bout of illness, Helen loses her sight and hearing.
1887: Helen’s parents hire Anne Sullivan, a graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, to be Helen’s tutor. Anne begins by teaching Helen that objects have names and that she can use her fingers to spell them. Over time, Helen learns to communicate via sign language, to read and write in Braille, to touch-lip read, and to speak.
1900: After attending schools in Boston and New York, Helen matriculates at Radcliffe College.
1903: Helen’s first book, an autobiography called The Story of My Life, is published.
1904: Helen graduates cum laude from Radcliffe, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
1915: Helen, already a vocal advocate for people with disabilities, co-founds the American Foundation for Overseas Blind to support veterans blinded in combat. This organization later becomes Helen Keller International and expands its mission to address the causes and consequences of blindness, malnutrition and poor health .
1920: Helen helps found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
1924: Helen joins the American Foundation for the Blind. She serves as a spokesperson and ambassador for the foundation until her death.
1946: Helen begins touring internationally on behalf of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind (see 1915 above), expanding her advocacy for people with vision impairment. In 11 years, she will visit 35 countries on five continents.
1956: Helen wins an Academy Award for a documentary film about her life.
1961: Helen suffers a stroke and retires from public life.
1964: Helen is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson.
1968: On June 1, Helen dies peacefully at her home in Connecticut. Her ashes are interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
Mission, Goals and Values
Helen Keller International saves and improves the sight and lives of the world’s vulnerable by combating the causes and consequences of blindness, poor health and malnutrition.
We envision a world where…
- No one suffers from preventable or treatable blindness or low vision;
- No one suffers from malnutrition; and
- Fewer people suffer loss of their productive years due to disability and premature death.
To accomplish this, we build the capacity of local government, non-profit and private sector systems and infrastructure, and promote the development of sustained, large scale programs that deliver effective solutions to preventable blindness and malnutrition.
HKI designs programs to have lasting impact by building local ownership and capacity, strengthening existing systems, and focusing attention and resources on building resilience. Achieving sustainable development requires full partnerships with governments, communities, civil society and the private sector that are based on a shared vision, open communication and mutual accountability.
HKI believes the most effective programs and operational systems are evidence-based and contextually relevant. They are rooted in state-of-the-art knowledge and local situational analysis. We design and test innovative approaches to current challenges and utilize rigorous evaluation to maximize impact and develop new knowledge.
HKI believes that every individual should have the opportunity to be an agent of positive change in their own life. Everyone — from the people we serve to our partners and staff — deserves to have a voice and to be treated with respect and dignity.
HKI holds ourselves to the highest ethical standards. We are a responsible steward of resources and we conduct all our activities with integrity and transparency, continuously striving for increased efficiency and effectiveness. Read more.