Touchstone Story #37–Expanding to ISAAME
In 1952, Lebanon became the 39th country to join Lions Clubs International. Sponsored by the Mexico City Lions Club, the Beirut Lions Club received its charter at a ceremony on Sept. 4 from international director Miguel Abed, a Mexican Lion with Lebanese heritage, and immediately began working on a project to construct a school for the city’s blind.
While the entry of a new country into the Lions family is always cause for celebration, this occasion also marked Lions expansion into new territory: the Middle East. Lions soon began to spread to other nations in the region and became known as ISAAME (India, South Asia, Africa and the Middle East), with Morocco, Jordan, and Algeria joining in 1953. As of 2015, approximately 20 percent of all Lions clubs resided within the ISAAME constitutional area.
The first Lions nation in the region, Lebanon, has maintained its enthusiasm for service through more than six decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, Lebanon went through a time of severe unrest, yet Lions endured and remained one of the only service organizations in operation during the war. When a Lebanese boy, Mustapha El Tawokji, won the first Lions International Peace Poster Contest in 1988-89, Lions in the country couldn’t have been more delighted.
“I was just a child who didn’t know the meaning of peace,” said El Tawokji. Years later, he still proudly recalls the scope of his achievement, “showing the world that someone from Lebanon, this small country that didn’t know anything about peace, could win this prize and put our country on the world map for peace.”
In December 2013, after thousands of people fled to Lebanon as civil war escalated in Syria, Lions in Norway and Lebanon connected over the Internet to organize support for the refugees Soon Lions from the two countries delivered a caravan of goods to the Arsal refugee camp where basic necessities were in short supply, making Lions the first foreign nongovernmental organization, other than the United Nations, to arrive at the camp.
In addition to bringing relief to refugees, clubs across Lebanon can be found planting trees, hosting health screenings, launching disease awareness campaigns, supporting child abuse prevention, donating hearing aids, providing care for the blind and funding cataract surgeries. It is this Lions spirit of service, international understanding and friendship that Lions in Lebanon and all over the ISAAME constitutional area will continue to bring to their region for years to come.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!