Touchstone Story #38–Expanding to Africa
Not long after Lions Clubs International entered the Middle East in 1952, the organization expanded to North Africa. The popularity of Lions was spreading in the 1950s, and Africa quickly joined the movement to serve.
Morocco and Algeria can both claim to have Africa’s earliest Lions clubs. In February 1953, the Casablanca Club in Morocco was organized. The club, however, did not receive its charter until later in May. Sponsored by the Vichy Lions Club in France, the Alger Doyen Lions Club in Algeria accepted its charter on March 27, 1953, making it the first chartered Lions club in Africa.
By Lions Clubs International’s 50th anniversary in 1967, Lions could be found throughout the continent in 36 countries, focusing their service activities on health programs and education. By 2014, Africa boasted clubs in 48 countries and geographic areas, and more than 25,000 members, one third of whom were women.
Although still part of the ISAAME (India, South Asia, Africa and the Middle East) constitutional area, Lions clubs in Africa may soon reach the 30,000 members necessary to form a separate constitutional area. From Tunisia to South Africa, Lions are filling the continent and serving their neighbors.
In Algeria, the site of Africa’s earliest chartered club, Lions are sponsoring computer classes for people who are blind and visually impaired, planting trees, hosting an annual diabetes awareness run and feeding people who are hungry. Lions and Leos are also coming together to provide diabetic retinopathy screening and referral programs. With a grant from SightFirst, Lions were able to provide more than 15,000 retinal exams and laser treatments in one year alone.
“What began as a small dream has grown to a nationwide program that will help many more people,” said Malika Bouri, a doctor and Lion in Algeria in 2011.
In Morocco, Lions are also changing lives every day by managing health centers, assisting with eye and dental clinics and supporting education and job training centers, such as the Princess Lalla Meryem Center in Casablanca and the Lions Sidi Makhlouf Center in Rabat. At the centers, children without other resources receive an education and a hot meal, sometimes the only one they will have all day. Meanwhile, their mothers learn vocational skills and how to read and write. Local Lions serve as role models, mentors, and tutors, helping women and children to build a better future.
“These are men and women who give meaning to our motto: ‘We Serve,’” said Past District Governor Abdou Moukite, a Lion and business leader in Casablanca.
“Lions physically help when they can,” Moukite said. “With heart, they often offer talent and know-how, and, of course, time to feel, hear, understand, share and act.”
Whether they serve in clubs that are decades old or a few months old, Africa’s Lions are committed and ready to make a difference.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!