At the 30th Annual Lions Day with the United Nations in 2008, Lions Clubs International took its longstanding relationship with the U.N. to a new level by formally agreeing to help meet the world’s most critical humanitarian needs.
During the 20th century, people had made huge progress in science, education, medicine and human rights. But at the start of the new millennium, many developing countries found their poorest citizens still struggling to obtain food and water. Women and children often suffered the most from a lack of basic necessities, education and healthcare.
In 2000, world leaders came together at U.N. headquarters in New York and committed to reducing this disparity by 2015 through eight Millennium Development Goals. The goals were ambitious:
Lions Clubs International has worked with the U.N. since 1947 to promote peace and prosperity, and Lions clubs around the world have been feeding the hungry and helping to fight diseases for decades. When International President Mahendra Amarasuriya sought additional ways for Lions to serve developing countries, he knew where to turn. On March 14, 2008, at U.N. headquarters in New York, President Amarasuriya signed a letter of intent representing LCI’s commitment to help meet the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Lions throughout the world began to focus on the goals. Lions of Sri Lanka collaborated with local health institutions, the ministry of health and UNICEF to help reduce child and maternal mortality rates through health education and training programs. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Lions worked to support education for their nation’s children by spreading the Lions Quest program, which trains teachers to promote positive youth development.
In Kenya, Lions focused on combating HIV/AIDS by establishing the Lions Comprehensive Care HIV/AIDS Clinic for Children to serve infected children and their mothers. Each month, approximately 1,440 children, ages newborn to two years, receive treatment while their mothers receive counseling, education and reproductive health services.
Although many of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals have yet to be met in full, by drawing attention to these eight areas of need, countless people around the world have been helped—often with a smile from a Lions volunteer.
Since its inception in 1990, LCIF’s SightFirst program has played a key role in reducing blindness, especially blindness due to cataract. The programs has provided support for more than 7.84 million sight-restoring cataract surgeries around the world, has upgraded eye care facilities and trained eye care personnel.
Now, SightFirst is highlighted in a new documentary by Seva Foundation. “Open Your Eyes: A Journey from Darkness to Sight” features a couple who receive the gift sight from the Lions Lacoul Eye Hospital in Tansen, Palpa, Nepal.
Check local HBO listings for showtimes in your area.
Flags, costumes, dancers, marching bands, cheers and Lions as far as the eye can see: It must be the International Parade of Nations at the Lions Clubs International Convention.
Each year, Lions from as many as 130 countries participate in the annual procession on the second day of the convention, a tradition dating back to the early 1920s. The parade is an opportunity for Lions to display their enthusiasm for the association and their national heritage. Many Lions don traditional dress, colors or costumes representing their native lands for the march. They carry their countries’ flags with pride and sometimes sing and dance along the route, as well.
Lions-sponsored bands, floats and officers also join in the fun. Throughout the decades, officers have led the way in everything from horse-drawn carriages to floats. Past International President Earle W. Hodges, who served from 1930 to 1931, led the 1931 convention delegates and marching bands down the streets of Toronto in a purple and gold Studebaker car, courtesy of the Lions Club of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the first Lions club established outside of the United States.
For Lions, the parade celebrates the bonds of friendship and displays the great reach of Lions’ service around the world. Anne Ford, a Lion from Trinidad, calls the parade her best memory from the 2014 Lions Clubs International Convention in Toronto. “It was nice to see all the traditional costumes of Lions from all the different countries,” she said. “We all gathered in one location and recognized that no matter what color, creed or race, we are all here to serve.”
But as always, Lions like to insert a little bit of fun and friendly competition wherever possible. Delegations may participate in contests to win cash prizes for the best floats, bands, uniformed marching delegations and precision demonstration units.
The parade is often the largest procession many host cities have seen in years, and with thousands of participants, it is truly spectacular to behold. Fellow Lions, convention guests and residents line the streets to exchange greetings and cheer on the delegates.
At the 1924 Lions Clubs International Convention in Omaha, Nebraska, a sense of excitement filled the air as some 2,500 Lions from across the U.S. and Canada took part in the celebratory procession. The event became even livelier when Lions from Colorado began a snowball fight at the end of the parade. The Colorado delegates had brought in loads of snow by railway car from the mountains back home and couldn’t resist sharing a mid-summer surprise—a first for Omaha in June.
Parades grew larger over the years as clubs formed across the globe. Marching bands became a staple and floats a common sight, with usually at least one float taking the shape of a lion. About 15,000 Lions marched in the parade during the 96th International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, in 2013. Today, there are so many participants and performances, the procession lasts several hours.
The parade has been and remains a highlight of the convention each year, placing the exuberant camaraderie and global spirit of Lions on display for all to see.
Dear Lions of the World,
Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Orlando, Florida, USA; Dallas, Texas, USA; Istanbul, Turkey; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nice, France; racial tension in many parts of the world.
Why is it happening? When will it stop? How much is enough? These are questions all of us are asking ourselves, and no one is providing any answers.
As the global leader in humanitarian service, a central focus is on providing for those less fortunate through a variety of service programs at the international and local level. Over the past two years, as part of our centennial service challenge, we have served 100 million people around the world. We are proud of our selfless service to others.
But as much as service is our focus, it doesn’t completely define who we are and what we stand for in the world community. One need only review excerpts from Lions Clubs International Purposes to gain a true understanding of our focus beyond service:
In my inaugural address delivered June 28 in Fukuoka, Japan, I spoke the following words:
“As we look at our future, there is another new large mountain which is arising for our world to conquer, and Lions International is the one to help the world climb this new mountain – and that is international relations. The Lions of the world are one family, focused on the goal of providing for others, and creating peace and understanding among the people of the world. We must strive to leave a legacy of world peace, world health, world safety, and world happiness.”
In February 1945, Lions’ founder Melvin Jones gathered with leaders of other national groups to meet with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affiars, Archibald MacLeish, to discuss forming a United Nations. In April of that year Lions headquarters asked clubs to hold a United Nations week to show support for the initiative.
In that spirit, and as we approach our 100th year of humanitarian service, I ask Lions around the world to hold a day of reflection during the week of July 25th. Set aside this day to reflect on how your club can work with local community leaders to nurture peace, lessen violence that has affected so many of our communities, and foster understanding among all peoples.
As we pause to reflect, please keep the victims and families of the recent tragedy in Nice, France in your thoughts and prayers.
Let us be the example of how people of different races, cultures, religions and diverse backgrounds can come together for a common cause.
Chancellor Bob Corlew
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