Touchstone Story #52–Libraries & Schools

In 1982, the schoolhouse in Nzeeni, Kenya, consisted of mud walls, an open space for a doorway, no windows and a thatched roof. Nzeeni was a flood-prone village of dirt roads, a poverty-stricken hamlet where local children came to school every day regardless of weather conditions. 

William Mutua Kyalo, chairman of the board of governors and overseer of the management of village schools, reached out to Dr. Y.C. Patel, a member of the Nairobi Gigiri Lions Club, for help. Patel helped organize a village meeting. Though resources were scarce, neighbors agreed to help. Locals would bring sand and stones from the river, baking bricks and wood for a new roof. A stonemason whose education Patel had sponsored offered to help construct the new building at cost. A local vegetable merchant who regularly traveled between Nzeeni and Nairobi would bring supplies that couldn’t be sourced locally. 

Within a year, seven classrooms and offices had been constructed. Within two years, four more classrooms had been added, and the new school was named the Nzeeni Lioness Primary School. 

A decade later, a workshop had been added for seventh-grade students, and a science laboratory, dormitories, a kitchen and dining room had been added as part of an expanded Gigiri Lions Girls Secondary School.  

What was once a mud-walled, thatched-roof school had become an education complex named the Nzeeni Lions Village. In 1993, ten years after the transformation began, the Melvin Jones Polytechnic School, named for the Lions Clubs International founder, opened its doors. Rohit Mehta of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, 1992-93 international president, attended an opening celebration and was greeted by a musical performance from the Nzeeni locals. Karibu, karibu, they chanted: “Welcome, welcome.” 

Investing in children and education means investing in the future. “Lion Dr. Y.C. Patel and his wife, Lady Lion Surekha, came to the rescue of the people of Nzeeni,” said Kyalo. “When this couple stepped into the village, the people of Nzeeni were very willing to work with them. We can never repay them for what they have done for our village.”  

From gathering books and turning an unused room into a library in East Dubuque, Illinois, in 1937 to building a modern, three-story addition to the Sri Ramakrishna MHS in India in 2010, Lions clubs and Lions Clubs International Foundation have built, adopted and expanded schools around the world since the organization’s founding. As Past District Governor S. Nagin of the Tambaram West Lions Club of India said, “Whatever you do for the cause of education, the youth will come up with [even] greater ideas.” 

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!

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