Congrats to Peace Essay Contest Winner Joel Greek

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At Lions Day with the United Nations on March 12, 2016, International President Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada presented a special plaque and a check for US$5,000 to 12-year-old Joel Greek from South Africa, for his winning Lions International Peace Essay.

The annual Peace Essay Contest encourages blind and visually impaired young people to express their thoughts of peace through the written word. The theme for the 2015-16 contest was “Share Peace.” Gordon Bay’s Lions Club President Jimmy Lang chose Joel’s essay as the winning piece for his Lions district.

Life has been challenging for Joel and his mother, who raised Joel on her own. The two of them live in a backyard in Cape Town. Joel had a brain tumor when he was 6 months old and had to go through chemotherapy. Doctors doubted that he would live past the age of 1. The tumor resulted in optic glaucoma, and he is now blind in one eye and has partial vision in the other. He has had tumors his entire life, including one that caused him to be hospitalized around the time he submitted his essay.

Despite all of this, Joel wrote in his essay, “I myself am a young boy with a disability, the only one in my family. Yet they accept me knowing I am capable of anything. We have an opportunity to change the world.”

You can read Joel’s full essay here.


Touchstone Story: Sister Schools

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For Lions in District 303 in Hong Kong and Macau, China, fulfilling one of the purposes of Lions Clubs International—to create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world—starts in the school yard. Through the Lions Sister Schools Scheme, Lions are helping students with and without disabilities to build relationships, learn from one another and have fun.

Launched in 1981 with the education department in Hong Kong, the program matches special education schools with traditional schools to encourage understanding among students and give children with disabilities more opportunities to interact with their peers. Lions provide financial assistance and organize activities for the paired schools.

By 1995, 50 out of 72 schools in the area serving children with disabilities—such as vision impairment, hearing impairment and learning or physical disabilities—were participating in the program. At the Lutheran School for the Deaf in Hong Kong, student volunteers from five local schools participated in arts and crafts, played sports and worked on speaking skills with its students—who in turn helped their peers who can hear learn to communicate with them.

“I learn more from them about overcoming obstacles than they from me,” said Josephine Tsang Ching-yu, a student who participated in the program in the mid-1990s.

As the relationships continued, administrators at the Lutheran School for the Deaf noticed its students becoming more confident and less reserved. Parents noticed similar changes at home. “Their student helpers treat them like brothers and sisters,” said administrator Theresa Fong Yuk-ying.

Participation levels have remained high over time as Lions and Leo clubs continued to sponsor the program and organize activities including hand painting, gardening and other exercises that encourage creativity, responsibility and care for the environment. The goal is always the same: to create awareness and build understanding.

At the 2013 Lions Clubs International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, District 303 received International President Wayne Madden’s World of Service Award. At the awards ceremony, which recognized Lions who exemplified the association’s commitment service in different categories, the Lions Sister Schools Scheme was named Best Youth Engagement Project.

View the full collection of Touchstone Stories at Lions100.org!

VBA Leos in Tree

Leos Support California Watershed Project

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April is Leo Club Awareness Month! To celebrate and recognize Leo clubs, the Lions Blog will feature stories about Leo service projects around the world. Today’s story was written by Leo Madi Berry, President of the Village Bible Academy Leo Club in California, USA. With the help and guidance of its sponsor, the Seal Beach Lions Club, the Village Bible Academy Leo Club has grown to include 68 homeschooled Leo club members.

When the given an opportunity to raise awareness for the Los Angeles Watershed, our club immediately jumped on board. The Rain Day Watershed Fair featured several educational booths where kids of all ages could engage in hands-on education through games and crafts. Leos were stationed at each booth and led activities for the kids. Every Leo, whether they were in sixth or twelfth grade, exemplified leadership.

Leo Madi at Biology tent

Leos also gained experience with planning projects, practicing teamwork, and teaching about our environment. That, however, is just the experience we gained from working at one event. With the multitude of events we work each year, the Leo Club Program allows us to gain so much experience in many different areas.

This year, we have also been given the opportunity to watch. We can watch the young girl’s face light up as she plays in the snow we spent hours setting up by the beach in sunny Southern California. We can watch the elderly man beam with joy when we give him a Valentine’s Day card and some of our time. We can watch the difference we make in the world and in the lives around us.

Through the Leo Club Program, we have the ability to lead, the chance to gain experience, and the opportunity to make a difference. No call for help is ever ignored and together, no task is ever too big. No matter how young we are, with the support of our fellow Leos and Lions we can accomplish amazing, unbelievable things. Our members realize not only what a great privilege it is to serve, but also what it means to truly be a Leo. We are Leos and we serve.


Lions in Zimbabwe Help Vaccinate More Than 5 Million

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Hidden in cities and villages across Zimbabwe, many beyond the reach of modern technology, more than 5 million children under the age of 15 face the threat of death from devastating diseases. Many of these diseases, such as measles, can be easily prevented by a series of inexpensive vaccinations.

Luckily, where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.

Lions knew something had to be done, but stopping the spread of a disease such as measles requires resources and collaboration on an almost unimaginable scale. That’s why, since 2013, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to meet the challenge of measles in Zimbabwe—and around the world—head-on.

Last September, LCIF, the Lions of Zimbabwe and Gavi partnered with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care to begin a massive five-day catch-up campaign to provide 5.2 million children with the measles-rubella vaccine and vitamin A supplements. With the Ministry of Health and Child Care coordinating the campaign, Gavi supplied millions of the vaccinations and vitamin supplements, while Lions took to the streets to mobilize volunteers and spread the word about the campaign.

With the help of a $100,000 grant from LCIF, Lions in Zimbabwe blanketed the airways, roadways and even cellphones with reminders about the campaign. To spread the word to families without access to television or radio, Lions and Leos teamed up to canvas marketplaces and other public spaces with fliers.

“There has been huge participation from Lions clubs, and the response from the community has been outstanding,” says Jonah Machaya, second vice district 412 governor. “We’ve sent out SMSs. We’ve done billboards. We’ve sent out radio feeds. We’ve sent out cellphone feeds. We have been in touch with most of the community of Zimbabwe.”

According to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care, who reported that all of the target population received vaccinations and nearly 90 percent received the vitamin supplement, it’s clear that Lions’ efforts were successful.

Lions in Zimbabwe prepare a child to receive the measles-rubella vaccination at a school outside Harare

Lions in Zimbabwe prepare a child to receive the measles-rubella vaccination at a school outside Harare

“We saw an advert in the newspaper and we felt that it’s our duty as parents to make sure [our] kids are vaccinated against the measles,” says one parent whose children received their vaccines during the campaign. “It has benefited us immensely because it is just a short distance from where we stay and also it is free of charge. The support is fantastic.”

The success of the measles rubella campaign demonstrates what Lions and partners can accomplish when they come together for the good of their communities. Much still remains to be done to combat measles around the world. As a part of their partnership, LCIF and its volunteers are raising $30 million to help Gavi fund similar campaigns in some of the world’s poorest countries. Funds raised by Lions will be matched by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring the total to $60 million. To learn more about how LCIF and Gavi are working together to combat measles visit lcif.org/EN/our-work/humanitarian-efforts/measles.php.

Leos with ecoladrillos

Leos Raise Awareness with Eco-Friendly Art Sculpture

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April is Leo Club Awareness Month! To celebrate and recognize Leo clubs, the Lions Blog will feature stories about Leo service projects around the world. Today’s story comes A.L.I.A.D.O.S. Leo Club in Argentina. This Alpha Leo club is sponsored by the Paraná Parque Urquiza Lions Club. The Leo club’s initials stand for Amistad (Friendship), Liderazgo (Leadership), Integración (Integration), Acción (Action), Diversidad (Diversity), Oportunidad (Opportunity), and Servicio Solidario (Solidarity in Service). The A.L.I.A.D.O.S. Leo Club recently celebrated its two year anniversary. It was charted in February 2014.

The A.L.I.A.D.O.S. Leo Club participated in a joint project with AFS Intercultural Programs, an international youth exchange organization. Together, Leos and AFS volunteers collect and recycle plastic bottles and synthetic materials to create bricks or “Ecoladrillos” for the sustainable construction of a sculpture in the Plaza de las Mujeres Entrerrianas.

Leos seated around table

The goal of the project is to encourage others to recycle by raising awareness through the construction of the art sculpture in the community plaza.

During the month of April, Leo clubs can consider joining Lions in the Protecting Our Environment Centennial Service Challenge. For other Leo clubs interested in completing a similar project, the A.L.I.A.D.O.S. Leo Club offered a few tips:

  • Use clean and dry synthetic papers and plastic bottles
  • Be sure to fill the bottle completely to avoid structural collapse
  • Soft plastic and polystyrene can also be used to fill bottles


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