A young woman works with a sewing machine.

Reaching Across Borders to Fight Poverty

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Although India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, an estimated 50 percent of Indians lack proper shelter. An overwhelming majority of the population does not have access to adequate sanitation or secondary education.

Lions in Ireland are teaming up with Lions in India to help the poor in rural areas to help themselves.

Lions of District 106 I in Ireland are partnering with the Arni Silk City Lions of District 324 A4 in India help women break the cycle of poverty. Together, they received a US$50,000 Core 4 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to fund a microenterprise program for single and widowed mothers. LCIF believes that microenterprise boosts the economic well-being for those who live at or below the poverty level and have limited skills and capital but who aspire to improve their situation.

The Lions are working with Nandri, a nonprofit in Ireland, and Child Aid Trust (CAT) in India to provide microenterprise loans to single and widowed mothers. Most of the women who participate in CAT programs are illiterate and support their families through menial labor. They are part of the Dalit caste, the lowest social class in India.

The women are denied access to traditional credit or loan options. The women are given a loan of Rs. 25,000 (approximately US$366), which they repay at a one percent interest rate for 25 months. Some women use their loans to purchase a cow whose milk they can sell on an ongoing basis. Some choose to purchase sewing machines so they can find consistent work as seamstresses. Others open small shops to sell snacks and cold drinks in their communities. All of these options allow the women to be more independent and to feed and educate themselves and their children.

This article was originally published in the March issue of LION Magazine.


Touchstone Story #27–Chicago Central Lions Club

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The Business Circle of Chicago, formed in 1908, would never be the same after insurance agency owner Melvin Jones joined the modest-sized club in 1913. Jones had an idea that business luncheon clubs, such as the Business Circle, should focus on serving their communities. Soon, he began working to connect his club with other like-minded clubs around the United States.

By June 1917, Jones had helped to establish a new organization that would change the lives of millions around the world: Lions Clubs International. Jones’ club joined the movement two months later. Since renamed the Chicago Central Lions Club, it has been an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of the Lions mission of service ever since.

“We’re continuing the great legacy of Melvin Jones and his vision,” said Richard Carlson, past president of the Chicago Central Lions Club.

Since 1999, the club has collected more than 50,000 eyeglasses for the Lions’ Recycle for Sight program. Members also periodically provide eyeglasses and hearing aids to the homeless in downtown Chicago, in addition to other service and fundraising programs. The Chicago Central Lions Club has a firsthand perspective on Lions’ work for the visually impaired. Five of its 32 members as of 2015 were blind.

Carlson became a member of the club more than two decades ago after retiring from a career in banking. He wanted to give back to his community, and a former colleague talked him into joining Lions—a decision he has never regretted. He is glad to have the opportunity to serve, whether by playing Santa Claus and bringing club-sponsored gifts to local visually impaired children or by reading for the Chicagoland Radio Information Services (CRIS), a daily service from the Chicago Lighthouse that broadcasts audio recordings of printed periodicals and daily newspapers to more than 40,000 visually impaired listeners. Looking back, it makes clear sense that Carlson would become a Lion. His mother once worked as a secretary in Jones’ insurance firm.

When Jones joined the Chicago Business Circle more than a century ago, he likely never dreamed that his experiences with the club would inspire an organization that today has more than 46,000 clubs around the globe. Jones remained a dedicated member of the Chicago Central Lions Club as he worked to build up the Lions Clubs International, even serving as the president of the club from 1920 to 1921 while also serving the greater Lions organization as secretary-treasurer.

Today, Jones’ home club, Chicago Central Lions Club, is proud of its role in Lions’ history and proud to be one of the many dedicated and enthusiastic clubs carrying out his vision of service.

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!


How Leo Clubs Changed My Life: From Lion Bob

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Greetings Fellow Lions,

I would like to share with you some of my experiences with Leo clubs. I am the MD Leo chairperson, so obviously I support Leo clubs. Let me explain why they are so important to your club and to Leos.

I have seen young Leos come in as quiet, unsure, insecure members who leave as leaders of their club. Leo club gives students a safe place to make mistakes and then learn from that mistake. Nothing is better than to receive a letter from a Leo thanking you for giving them the opportunity to better their life.

Let me tell you a specific example of a changed life. This life is MY life.

When I joined Lions, I was terrified of speaking publicly. I would not take a leadership role. I thought the height of my leadership involvement would be Lion Tamer. Not a very high aspiration.

Early on, I was asked to take charge of the awards committee. That was easy, behind-the-scenes work, so I accepted. While learning about different awards, I read about Leo clubs. I had no idea what a Leo club was or how it functioned. However, I decided to try.

I can honestly say that I had no idea what I was doing. Yet, two Leo clubs were formed, and they continue today. I was a new Lion, highly unqualified and yet we got it done. I have never been a Lions club president, and yet I am the MD Leo chairperson. I have planned five Leo Conferences including Leo Day at the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum, and I was voted South Carolina Lion of the Year.

You never know what the Leo Club Program can do for you. However, I fully believe that it can be the starting point of something great.

Trust me, if I can start a Leo club, anyone can.

Lion Bob Cox

Lion Bob Cox is a member of the Blythewood Lions Club in South Carolina, USA. He is the advisor for both the Blythewood High School Leo Club and the Westwood High School Leo Club.

Flood Relief in Peru

LCIF Awards Disaster Grants, April 2017

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Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) offers a variety of funding options to support various stages for disaster relief operations, including Disaster Preparedness, Emergency, Community Recovery and Major Catastrophe Grants.

For districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, Emergency Grants provide up to US$10,000. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year. Community Recovery Grants aid districts interested in supporting short-term clean-up and repair efforts in situations where other organizations have already addressed immediate needs. Lions district governors may submit proposals for community recovery grants.

In April 2017, LCIF awarded 7 Emergency Grants and 1 Community Recovery Grant totaling US$85,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:

Ecuador, District G-2
US$10,000 for flood relief

Peru, District H-1
US$10,000 for flood relief

Brazil, District LD-9
US$15,000 for community recovery

Argentina, District O-3
US$10,000 for flood relief

New Zealand, District 202-L
US$10,000 for flood relief

Brazil, District L-3
US$10,000 for flood relief

Paraguay, District M-1
US$10,000 for windstorm relief

Canada, District U-1
US$10,000 for flood relief


Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund today.

Donate to LCIF


Touchstone Story #18–Campaign SightFirst

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“There is always a sense of adventure in a new enterprise, and the Lions’ way of serving the blind is something new in the world.” In 1927, just two years after challenging Lions Clubs International to become Knights of the Blind, Helen Keller spoke these words—a validation that her call to action had been answered. More than 60 years later, however, there remained much work to be done. It was time for Lions to embark on another new enterprise.

In the late 1980s, blindness plagued 38 million people around the world. Left unchecked, experts predicted that number would more than double to 80 million by the next generation.

Despite this grim situation, there was a distinct ray of hope. Experts estimated that perhaps 80 percent of all cases of blindness were preventable, treatable or even curable. And about 90 percent of people with vision impairments lived in developing nations, where significant but surmountable challenges impeded progress. The situation was dire, but not unsolvable.

After more than a year of initial work, the Lions Clubs International Foundation board of trustees officially inaugurated Campaign SightFirst at the June 1991 meeting in Brisbane, Australia. It would immediately become the most ambitious and far-reaching fundraising drive in the organization’s history.

The goal of Campaign SightFirst was to raise US$130 million by June 1994 and to aim to conquer blindness, in all its diverse forms, through grant projects driven by local Lions. With that in mind, Lions focused on creating programs that could provide direct, practical benefit to people in the developing world with easily preventable or treatable afflictions.

The most prevalent cause of blindness in the early 1990s was undoubtedly cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens typically related to aging, but occasionally caused by a congenital defect. Cataract surgery had long been common, safe, and very effective in the United States, but developing countries had to contend with major barriers. The lack of education about the causes, symptoms and treatments for cataracts was one obstacle. Unfounded fears of diagnosis and treatment was another.

Assuming a broad education campaign could help raise awareness, there were still many inherent challenges to overcome—lack of accessible medical services in remote areas, lack of transportation or communications infrastructure to facilitate treatments, and lack of trained eye-care professionals, facilities, and technologies.

So, Campaign SightFirst focused on mobilizing funds and volunteers to remove as many barriers as possible. One example: programs created to provide transportation to treatment centers. Countless local volunteers assisted medical authorities and provided patients with transportation to and from eye hospitals, prompting Past International President J. Frank Moore III, who served from 2001 to 2002, to remark proudly that Lions not only donate money to a cause, they give generously and actively of their time. “That is one of the key components that others see in … being able to partner with us—knowing that we do have that manpower component,” Moore said.

Indeed, SightFirst gathered powerful partners in its quest to eradicate blindness. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, the World Health Organization, The Carter Center, and many other government agencies and nongovernment organizations aided Lions’ efforts to combat not only cataracts, but also diabetic retinopathy, trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness).

After three years of tireless efforts worldwide, on April 14, 1994, Lions surpassed their goal, raising a total of US$130,335,734, and by July 1, 1994, the figure surpassed US$140 million. In the coming decade, these funds helped launch and support numerous programs and projects throughout the developing world.

As of December 2005, US$182 million had been raised for 758 projects in 89 countries. These projects included constructing or expanding 207 eye hospitals, providing 65 million treatments for river blindness, training 83,500 eye care professionals, and launching the world’s first initiative to combat childhood blindness. Lions-funded cataract surgeries also restored sight to some 4.6 million people.

The accomplishments of projects funded by SightFirst I were so inspiring and effective that a second fundraising campaign, called Campaign SightFirst II, was officially launched at the 2005-2006 International Convention in Hong Kong.

Once again, the Knights of the Blind had responded to a call for action. But there were millions more to be helped, in the developed as well as the developing world, and SightFirst would soon evolve yet again to meet this worldwide need.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series.


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