Touchstone Story #42–Humanitarian Missions

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“We Serve” is the Lions Clubs’ motto, and the truth behind those words can be seen whenever Lions embark on a humanitarian mission to help those in need.

One of the Lions’ “vision missions” was held in Ensenada, Mexico, in 2009. Eighty miles south of San Diego, California, Ensenada is a tourist destination and cruise ship port, but many of the locals have never had an eye exam. Lions clubs in the United States and Mexico teamed up to change that.

“Missions are rewarding because they’re hands-on service,” said Bill Iannacone of the Walnut Creek Host Lions Club of California. About 700,000 pairs of eyeglasses were collected in California, then shipped across the border, where Ensenada Lions received them, set up a location for the mission event and publicized it locally.

Over the course of two days, more than 800 locals who couldn’t afford health care received eye exams, free eyeglasses and even eye drops to treat allergies and conjunctivitis from four doctors, six technicians and dozens of Lions.

Elena Galindo and her young son both received glasses. “Not only will this help my family financially, but I was able to see the smile on my son’s face, and he was able to see better,” she said.

Missions around the world offer the chance for clubs in neighboring countries to work together. Club members travel together, work together and meet new friends. As Sue Topf of the Clermont Lions Club in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, “These missions change your life. Last trip we fit a 100-year-old man with his first pair of glasses. He had walked down from the mountain in his Sunday best.”

Vision missions are a major part of the Lions’ humanitarian work, but that’s only one way of serving. The year 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of an annual medical, dental and ophthalmic mission jointly organized by Lions clubs in Japan and the Philippines, providing teeth cleaning, information on oral hygiene, and vision and medical screenings to more than 1,000 people in the Philippines. Other clubs team up for one-time missions, such as the Roma Castel Sant’Angelo Lions Club of Italy, which helped build a well and provided hygiene training to a village in Benin, Africa; and the Mijas Lions Club of Spain, which equipped two Bolivian schools with furniture and school supplies.

“I get more out of it than I give,” said Jim Ashcraft of the San Diego Missions Lions Club, who was on hand in Ensenada. That feeling of service shows that these gestures, both large and small, can have a big impact—and not just for the recipients.

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!





Measles-Rubella Vaccination Campaign Targets 40 Million Children in India

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Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, spread through close contact with infected persons. If there is just one person with measles on a crowded bus of 100 people, 90 others will become infected if they are not vaccinated. In 2013, it was reported that more than 50% of measles-associated deaths in the world occurred in India.

Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) remains committed to the fight against this deadly – but preventable – disease. The Lions of Multiple District 316 in India recently received a US$150,000 grant to support their efforts in a statewide measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign. Throughout August 2017, the campaign has vaccinated millions of children between 9 months and 15 years of age across the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Lions are known for their work in social mobilization and advocacy. For this campaign, local Lions worked with school administrators and parents to raise awareness around the importance of all children being vaccinated for MR and to allow government vaccination teams to vaccinate children who attend private schools.  For the first two weeks of the month, the campaign focused on schools, immunizing one school, one village, each day. The later half of the month focused on community-based vaccine centers for children who do not attend school.

LCIF continues efforts to help children around the world  committing to raise US$30 million by the end of 2017. If Lions and LCIF meet this goal working alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the contributions will be matched by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, allowing LCIF and Lions to provide US$60 million for vaccinations.

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*Measles mortality in high and low burden districts of India: estimates from a nationally representative study of over 12,000 child deaths.
Morris SK, Awasthi S, Kumar R, Shet A, Khera A, Nakhaee F, Ram U, Brandao JR, Jha P, MDS Collaborators.
Vaccine. 2013 Sep 23; 31(41):4655-61.


Lions and LCIF Responded To Hurricane Harvey

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My Dear Lions,

On Friday, August 25th, Hurricane Harvey made its way ashore on the central Gulf Coast of Texas with winds of 125 miles per hour. As I draft this letter, the central coast of Texas, including metropolitan Houston, is still being affected by unprecedented amounts of rain fall and potentially devastating flooding.  The nearly 17 million residents in the path of the storm will be dealing with the aftermath for weeks and possibly months to come.

Lions Clubs International, through our Foundation (LCIF), has responded with emergency catastrophe grant in the amount of US$100,000. The grant will allow Lions in the area of impact to provide life-saving supplies of food, water, blankets and other necessities. 

We never know when or where disaster will strike. But when it does, LCIF emergency and major catastrophe grants enable local Lions to respond, making an immediate impact in the hardest hit areas – around the world.

Your donation to LCIF makes it possible for us to respond at a moment’s notice to this and other disasters as they strike. Lions members are the most generous people in the world.  Please consider a donation to LCIF to assist Lions in short-term and long-term disaster response.

Donate to LCIF

I know you join me in keeping the victims of this latest natural disaster in your thoughts and prayers.  Together we make a significant difference.



Dr. Naresh Aggarwal


Touchstone Story #60–First Response

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Disasters occur with frightening regularity. There are earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and more.

On April 25, 2015, at 11:56 a.m. local time in Nepal, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastated parts of urban Bharatpur and Kathmandu and flattened entire villages elsewhere in the country. It also caused an avalanche on Mount Everest. More than 9,000 people were killed as a result of the quake and its aftershocks, with 21,000 injured and more than US$5 billion in property damage. It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal in nearly a century.

Within hours, as the local and international response was still forming and before the aftershocks had even happened, Lions Clubs International Foundation had issued a US$100,000 Major Catastrophe Grant and mobilized $4 million of contributions. At the same time, clubs around the world were preparing to send emergency medical supplies, food, fresh water, purifiers and temporary shelters to Nepal.

Three weeks after the quake, 2015-16 LCIF Chairperson Joe Preston wrote: “Mount Everest is only a few hundred kilometers north of Kathmandu. In 1924, the British Empire sent their renowned explorer, George Mallory, to make the first serious attempt to conquer the world’s tallest peak. When asked why he would make such a massive effort to climb the mountain, Mr. Mallory replied, “Because it’s there.”

Our task is very similar. Why should we make such a massive effort to help the survivors? Because they are there. Because they are still alive.

The Lions’ first response effort to help survivors in disasters such as in Nepal is fast. In 1950, Lions of Lima, Peru, were visiting Cusco when a magnitude 6 earthquake shook the city and destroyed homes. The Lima Lions immediately organized a relief operation on behalf of their Cusco brethren. In 1963, when a cyclone struck Pakistan and killed more than 10,000 people, local Lions established relief camps at nearby high schools and, in the months that followed, rebuilt devastated areas. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City Helping Hands Lions Club immediately began to help those affected by the attacks.

Today, Lions continue to be on call when disaster strikes. The Lions ALERT Program is a plan of action to guide local Lions clubs in their response to events—those that affect a few people, and those that affect thousands. From maintaining local volunteer databases to offering training classes on emergency evacuation routes, the ALERT Program provides a road map for unforeseen situations.

Marilyn Gotcher, president of the Oklahoma City Helping Hands Lions Club in 1995, summed up how the Lions continue to view these tragedies: “Out of pain, suffering and sorrow, so much goodness can 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!


Message from IP Aggarwal: Lions Stand Against Hate

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My Dear Lions,

Like me, I’m sure you have followed the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia and Barcelona, Spain. Acts of terror, and loss of innocent lives must never become the norm.

Lions International and its over 1.4 million members around the world stand for peace, unity, and service to others. For over 100 years we have upheld the principle that people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions and ideologies can work together to make a positive difference.

We are the example that where there is peace, there can be no hatred. Where there is love, there can be no hatred. Where there is understanding, there can be no hatred. And when there is no hatred, it is a better world for all.

We stand together as one against hate, bigotry and violence in all its forms.

And we pray for the victims of the recent attacks in Barcelona, Spain and Charlottesville, Virginia. May peace and love prevail.


Dr. Naresh Aggarwal

International President


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