Remarkable Unity at the UN
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Special Olympics.
The setting was remarkable. The impact, even more.
Within the walls of the United Nations General Assembly Hall, it was easy to be awestruck by the immense nature of the venue, both in size and significance.
The Lions Day with the United Nations celebration in March 2017 brought together nearly a thousand civic and service leaders from throughout the world. Lions clubs members came from near and far to pledge their support to the global service framework for which Lions Clubs International is internationally recognized. United Nations and civil society leaders spoke to the urgency of supporting service as part of a shared commitment to addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues.
The plight of refugees worldwide, especially youth, was paramount. It was for this reason that Lions Clubs International invited Mina Bahgat, a refugee from the Middle East currently residing in the Netherlands, to address attendees.
“I CAN, I WANT, I DO IT NOW!” exclaimed Mina as he explained the way in which Lions Clubs International and Special Olympics have empowered him to achieve his best – both on and off the ice rink. Mina is an active Special Olympics winter sports athletes and an avid short track speed skater. He has found a new life in Holland through sport and service.
The event concluded with an informative, influential panel of leaders from the international development and disability space, including Mina, to offer solutions to the myriad of challenges facing this most at-risk population on the move.
The momentum has been strong.
Lions clubs from across the world have helped provide supplies to refugee camps, services to urban reception centers, language services for new arrivals, and much more.
In May, a small, local inclusive sports match took part in Larnaca, Cyprus. Refugee youth teamed up with Special Olympics athletes to share a morning of Unified Floorball. Special Olympics athletes extended the invitation to the local reception center in an effort to expand Unified Sports, and to bring an added dimension to the growing Special Olympics – Lions Clubs International “Mission: Inclusion” partnership platform.
It was a juxtaposition of sorts: the excluded were including.
It was a reminder of the power that a simple invitation to play can have. It was also yet another example of the ways in which Lions Clubs International and the Lions Clubs International Foundation are empowering marginalized populations – of all abilities – to achieve their best and face a brighter future.
As young refugees played alongside their Special Olympics athlete counterparts, it was clear that the event and the passion behind it was a living testament of the Lions Day with the United Nations. Just as Lions had empowered Mina to stand at a podium exclusively reserved for global leaders, so too had they made possible a simple gesture of play to break the walls of exclusion and replace them with celebration.
Lions from all over the world are actively engaged in supporting refugees and migrants in their local communities, and Special Olympics athletes are proud to follow this example of service and solidarity. The Lions Day with the United Nations was not only a moment to shed increased attention on an urgent social issue, but it also served as a stimulant of sorts to ignite further action, more ideas and deeper partnerships for change.
“Lions throughout the world are committed to action, to help brighten the lives of those in need,” said Chancellor Bob Corlew, Lions Clubs International President. “It is for this reason that supporting refugees in our local communities is a natural fit for our association, but most importantly, for the passion that drives us to bring our ’We Serve’ motto to communities in need.”
Lions Clubs International is the world’s global leader in community service, and it is also a global leader in community change. From prestigious venues in New York City to a local sports facility in Larnaca, Cyprus, Lions Clubs International is leading the way – with action and purpose.
This strategic vision of Lions Clubs International is remarkable. Its impact, even more.