The new dormitory.
Jun
8

A Barefooted, Four-Hour Walk to School- Until Lions Intervened

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Getting to SK Talantang School, situated among towering rubber trees and marshy rice fields, was an epic journey for many students. Some students who live in areas without roads walked for as long as four hours to reach the school in rural Sabah, Malaysia. Then after school, they walked home—often barefoot both ways. They didn’t want to wear out their precious government-supplied shoes.

Those using vehicles to get to school worried their parents as well. They rode on the backs of motorcycles or packed into rickety vans. During the rainy season, many students who walked and rode skipped school altogether because of the dangers posed by rushing waters.

Now half of the school’s 200 students no longer make the long or dangerous daily trek. A dormitory has been built, thanks to Lions clubs in Korea, Kota Kinabalu Host Lions Club in Malaysia and Lions Clubs International Foundation. Built in six months and opened in February, the dormitory is just a short walk from the school.

Spearheaded by Past District Governor Eugene Lee, the dormitory includes bedrooms with bunk beds, bathrooms with flushing toilets, a dining area and a kitchen. The children are fed nutritious meals several times a day. The dormitory also offers lighting, running water and sanitation, amenities which are often not available in many private homes.

The children no longer have to rush home and can participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, Boy Scouts and tutoring. The students can choose to go home or stay in the dormitory on weekends.

During the dedication ceremony, District Governor Myung-young Kang of Korea encouraged the students: “Up to now, you had a good excuse not to attain good scores: the distance between school and your homes. No more. I, your Korean Uncle Kang, wish you study hard, day and night, rain or shine, and become leaders of Kota Marudu, Sabah State and Malaysia. Once becoming such leaders, if someone asks how you have been so successful, you better say, ‘That’s because I studied at Asrama Desa Lions SK Talantang!’”

Jun
7

Touchstone Story #85–Lions Day

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What would happen if all the Lions clubs in a district hosted activities on the same day? That was the question on members’ minds when Multiple District 102 Switzerland-Liechtenstein established Lions Day in 2007. The one-day affair would occur every five years and would involve as many clubs as possible, raising funds for a single cause and bringing increased visibility to Lions Clubs International.

Lions suspected that the results would be remarkable.

On May 12, 2007, clubs across the district held fundraising activities to provide safe drinking water in developing nations. Out of 260 clubs in the district, all but three were able to participate. Lions could be seen everywhere—on the streets, in shopping malls and in the markets—reaching out to their neighbors. In just one day, the clubs raised 1.5 million euros, enough to finance 40 safe-water projects in Africa and Latin America. The inaugural Lions Day was a success.

For Lions Day on June 2, 2012, Lions conducted their activities under the slogan, “Lions for People.” This time, clubs would work on a project of their choice, but they were also asked to help raise awareness for Lions Clubs International by pursuing media coverage. “On Sunday, June 3, 2012, no one will be able to say in Switzerland, he had never heard or read anything about Lions,” said Robert Rettby, international director from 2013 to 2015 and chairman of the organizing committee for National Lions Day 2012. Once again, almost every club in Multiple District 102 participated. Ten thousand Lions and Leos hosted service activities and fundraisers. Lions volunteered at nursing homes, picked up trash and manned booths at markets and fairs. They hosted dinners, sporting events, games and performances to raise money for local charities. They spread the news about Lions’ commitment to service and how people could become a member.

The Lucerne-Reuss Lions Club collected used eyeglasses for the Lions Recycle for Sight program at a public square in Emmenbruecke. Meanwhile, Lions in Willisau collaborated with the city to build a pedestrian bridge over the Wigger River. 

The media coverage of Lions Day 2012 went beyond expectations: 450 articles appeared throughout Switzerland. In a country of only 8 million people, such a media blitz was hard to miss. Multiple District 102 had more than achieved its objectives.

The next Lions Day is scheduled for June 10, 2017, to coincide with Lions Clubs International’s 100th anniversary celebration. Once again, Lions in Switzerland will be out in force, serving their communities and letting their neighbors know about the great work Lions are doing, locally and around the world.

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!

May
31

Touchstone Story #28–Pressing On

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Lions Clubs International thrived in the 1920s as organizations that focused on serving others captured the imagination of the American public. As the United States entered the Roaring Twenties, a new ideal of service and voluntarism generated a wave of enthusiasm. Industrialization and other social changes were sweeping America, and the concept of social responsibility was gaining momentum.

The ideal of service had become a “glorious spiritual force” in the U.S., Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover wrote in 1922. The trend was exemplified, according to the future U.S. president, by the “vast multiplication of voluntary organizations for altruistic purposes.”

Lions were at the heart of the service movement. People in small towns and cities across America were ready to respond to the Lions, and to founder Melvin Jones’ maxim that “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else.”

Lions’ public profile rose as the organization launched a prominent fight against blindness and local Lions clubs took on great causes. Lions in Houston pitched in to raise money for children in war-torn Belgium. Lions in Los Angeles helped fund a playground. Lions in Cincinnati raised money for a war memorial.

Wherever Lions clubs were established, they encouraged members to work to benefit t

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!

May
24

Touchstone Story #73–Champions

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Only a few weeks before Kevin Sessions was to compete in a basketball tournament at the summer 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, the 19-year-old athlete hit a slump. His dad and coach Warren Sessions couldn’t understand what the trouble was—until Kevin mentioned that everything seemed blurry.

As soon as father and son reached the Games, Warren took Kevin to the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes clinic to have his eyes checked. He was diagnosed with nearsightedness and spots behind his eyes. To make sure he was ready to play in a big basketball game the next day, the clinic volunteers rushed to get Sessions the eyewear he needed in only 20 minutes. What a difference the glasses made. Sessions scored 12 points in the game, and his team went on to win the gold medal. 

Special Olympics gives thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities the chance to shine through athletic training and competition—building community, confidence, fitness and courage in the process. But like Sessions, many athletes suffer unnecessarily from undiagnosed vision issues.  

Special Olympics first established an eye health services program for participating athletes in 1991. A decade later, Lions Clubs International Foundation gave its first grant to the Opening Eyes program. The two organizations have had a special partnership ever since, providing free vision screening to more than 350,000 participants, offering free prescription eyeglasses and sports goggles to more than 170,000 Special Olympic athletes, and distributing more than 100,000 free sunglasses. 

The Lions Clubs International Foundation donates approximately US$1 million each year to the cause. Since the partnership began, more than 20,000 Lions volunteers from more than 80 countries have staffed the state, regional, national and international Special Olympics Games. 

The partnership between Special Olympics and Lions almost seems inevitable. In 1968, the first Special Olympics Games were held at Chicago’s Soldier Field stadium, less than three miles from Lions headquarters, at the time in downtown Chicago. 

In 2010, Lions and the Special Olympics created Champions Lions Clubs, a new designation for Lions clubs that focus specifically on Special Olympics. These clubs go beyond supporting the Opening Eyes program. They help Special Olympic athletes with scholarships, training, donations, health programs, hands-on support and promotion of the Games.  

At the 2013 Lions Clubs International Convention, Lions expanded its Special Olympics partnership with an initiative called “Mission: Inclusion,” which aims for full acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through health programs, outreach, leadership and advocacy opportunities. Thanks to its longstanding partnership with the Special Olympics, Lions have helped the world to see that every person has the talent and passion to be a champion.

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!

Kester Edwards receives his Melvin Jones Fellowship plaque from Chairperson Yamada
May
22

Making History: Charting a Future in Service

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While his service footprint has been made throughout the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, his inspiration comes from the hills of Tobago, a small island nestled in the southern Caribbean. It was in these lush, green hills that Kester Edwards learned of the power, and impact that local service can have on a global population. Thousands of miles from his hometown, Kester recently received a significant distinction from the world’s top service club organization, and made history.

As a charter member of the Washington, DC, Special Olympics Lions Club in 2001, Kester Edwards has taken that inspiration and transformed it into a focused effort to ensure that community service is not just offered TO individuals with intellectual disabilities, but also FROM them. His signature projects include dedicated support to food kitchens throughout the nation’s capital, women’s shelters, at-risk youth, and the local Special Olympics program. Fundraising, advocacy, hands-on service, connecting members and inspiring the next generation of Lions, both in his Club and abroad, are just a sample of the highlights that Kester Edwards has achieved in nearly two decades as a Lion.

Kester Edwards’ story is one of millions, and at the same time, one of a kind. Kester Edwards has provided some of the strongest global service focus to Special Olympics athletes of anyone in the world today, perhaps most notably because he himself is a former SO athlete. He is also a former SO coach, international member of the Board of Directors, and currently a formidable sport development expert.

His profile has inspired a generation of Lions and SO athletes, and the world is taking notice. In the company of Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, Inc., Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Chairperson Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada, and a range of Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International leaders, Kester Edwards received his Melvin Jones Fellowship, recognizing his dedication to LCIF. He is the first Special Olympics athlete to ever receive an MJF.

“I am proud to stand here before you as the first SO athlete to receive this distinction. My commitment is that I will not be the only, or the last,” said Kester, at the Lions Clubs International Centennial celebration event, hosted by Special Olympics at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming, Austria. “I have been a solider of Special Olympics for many years, most of my life in, fact.  And tonight, I commit to all of you at Lions Clubs International, I am now a lifetime solider of Lions Clubs International.”

As recognition of humanitarian work, an MJF is an honor presented to those who donate US$1,000 to LCIF or to people for whom a donation was made by others.

“Words do not capture the admiration we have for Kester’s deep commitment to a more just and inclusive world for all,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. “Kester is a role model, a man of physical strength, professional achievement, and enormous integrity. A role model not only because of the service he provides to others, but also because he is a great colleague, dear friend, and strong advocate for change.”

Kester continues to support his community through a range of projects, and has most recently been identified by Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International as a key driver of the youth activation work underway with Leos throughout the world.

Kester Edwards addresses the audience

“I have been blessed,” said Kester at the Centennial event. “More athletes should be given the opportunity to serve, and that is now my mission: to make sure that I am but the first of many. That is inclusion in action.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post by Special Olympics.

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