On the front lines of World War II, the Philippines suffered from years of war and occupation. In 1945, the city of Manila was all but destroyed during a month-long battle to expel Japanese forces occupying the city. Few could have imagined that only seven years later, a group of Filipinos associated with Lions Clubs International would extend a hand of friendship to assist their former enemies in founding a Lions club in Tokyo.
The Philippines had been home to Lions clubs since 1949 when LCI established its first club in Manila. Lions’ message of voluntarily service, international peace and friendship appealed to the newly independent nation. Other clubs quickly formed, and members worked tirelessly to provide aid to neighbors and help their country rebuild.
But the Lions in the Philippines also knew they needed to repair relationships with their former enemies, in addition to redeveloping their homeland. Building international understanding and peace between nations is an important mission of Lions Clubs, and helping to heal old wounds could only benefit both nations.
The Philippine Lions clubs reached out to LCI headquarters, requesting to sponsor a club in Japan. Two Lions from Manila, George Barrenengoa and International Director Manuel J. Gonzalez, led the charge. On March, 5, 1952, when LCI’s First Vice President Edgar M. Elbert presented the Tokyo Lions Club its charter, Barrenengoa and Gonzalez were on hand to witness the historic event.
Gonzalez welcomed Japan as the 35th nation to join Lions by presenting Kin-ichi Ishikawa, the first president of the Tokyo club, with a Filipino flag. Ishikawa proudly gave Gonzalez a Japanese flag in return.
Letters of congratulations to the Tokyo club poured in from Lions all over the world. A few months later at the 1952 International Convention in Mexico City, Elbert, by then Lion’s new international president, told the entire Lions organization about the establishment of the Japanese club and the emotional charter ceremony when the Japanese and Filipinos came together.
“Filipinos should detest and hate us,” Ishikawa said, according to Elbert. “But then, from these same Filipinos came an invitation for us to join Lions Clubs International.”
When it comes to encouraging peace and international understanding, a welcoming spirit of Lions’ friendship can build bridges in the most unlikely places.
Right now there is a wild fire burning uncontrollably in the vicinity of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, that has engulfed thousands of acres, destroying nearly 2,000 homes and businesses. The entire city of Fort McMurray – population 80,000 – has been evacuated. It is the largest mass evacuation in the history of Canada. And still, the fire burns. There is currently no timeframe for when the fire will be extinguished, no estimate of how many more homes and businesses will be lost, and no time table given to those who have been displaced as to when they might return to begin reconstructing their lives.
The Lions of Canada are formulating a plan with regard to how best to respond to this natural disaster. They are working with government officials and other agencies to assess what is needed.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has approved a US$100,000 major catastrophe grant to allow Canadian Lions to provide much needed assistance.
Your donations allow LCIF to respond when and where needed. This is the third major catastrophe in the past three weeks. We are providing assistance to our Canadian brothers and sisters even as assistance continues to flow into Japan and Ecuador in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes there.
Our thoughts are with the victims of this latest disaster.
Thank you Lions for your generosity.
Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Perhaps Lions’ biggest contribution to the fight against measles and rubella comes in the form of social mobilization. Around the world, Lions are on the ground actively working to stop the spread of measles. Lions know their communities, and they know how to make an impact in those communities. Local Lions actively engage in social mobilization and advocacy to raise awareness about the dangers of measles and the benefits of vaccines. They go door-to-door, speaking to the parents of young children and educating them. Lions host parades and purchase radio advertisements to promote vaccination campaigns. They canvas their neighborhoods, affixing posters and passing out flyers. They speak to local and national officials, community members and clergy to increase the number of vaccination advocates in their areas, and work with our partners to reach even the most remote areas.
Just last week, the Lions of Chania Falls and Kilimambogo gathered in Thika Town to kick off the start of the 15 day Lions-sponsored Measles Rubella campaign roadshow, which will travel over 1,000 kilometers across the central part of Kenya, raising awareness in communities of the importance of immunization and the upcoming Measles-Rubella vaccination campaign. At each roadshow stop, local clubs will be working hard to raise awareness in their community to help ensure a strong turnout once the campaign launches. The Gavi-supported campaign will take place May 16–24, and is targeting 18 million children between the ages of 9 months and 14 years.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles deaths have been reduced by 71% since 2001. Alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Lions clubs have worked with the Measles & Rubella Initiative to support this reduction. Recent experience shows that failure to vaccinate enough children against measles can result in serious outbreaks. As a result, the Gavi-Lions Clubs partnership will include support of routine immunization and strengthening health systems going forward. By 2020, more than 700 million children in 49 countries are expected to be immunized against measles and rubella.
When natural disasters strike, Lions are there to offer help and support. In times of need, Lions rely on disaster relief grants and funds from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). Emergency grants provide up to US$10,000 for districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis.
In April 2016, LCIF awarded 4 emergency and disaster relief grants totaling US$40,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:
Malawi, District 412
$10,000 for flood relief
Uruguay, District J 1
$10,000 for flood relief
Texas, USA, District 2 S2
$10,000 for flood relief
Uruguay, District J 2
$10,000 for flood relief
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