Touchstone Story #76–Freedom to Move

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Lions in Australia and New Zealand are giving children with cerebral palsy—who are often confined to wheelchairs—a chance to stand on their own and to experience walking for the first time in their lives with a specialized piece of equipment known as the Hart Walker.

“The first time I saw a child with disabilities empowered by the Hart Walker, my heart nearly melted,” said International President Barry J. Palmer, an Australian who served from 2013 to 2014. “I feel the same way every single time I see children take their first steps in a Hart Walker.”

Developed in Britain in 1989 and refined through subsequent models, the Hart Walker has four wheels, a frame and complex bracing at the hips, knees and ankles that allow children who normally use wheelchairs to stand and propel themselves forward.

The new freedom of movement strengthens children’s underused muscles and lungs and boosts their confidence. But the walker is expensive, so Lions in Australia and New Zealand got to work bringing these amazing walkers at no cost to their families.

Children with mobility challenges can “walk with their mates, hold hands, they’re able to run,” said Cindy Shaw, an Australian whose quadriplegic son Adam received a walker from the Lions. “He feels very strong, and that he can do anything.”

Australian Lions have made the Hart Walker one of their signature programs. Since establishing the Australian Lions Children’s Mobility Foundation in 1999, Australian Lions have fitted more than 1,900 children with the walking devices. Palmer was a driving force in that effort.

In his inaugural address at the 2013 Lions Clubs International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, he told the audience how at a club in Australia he watched the moment a girl was put into a Hart Walker. “She smiles at us, gets this look of determination, then … she is walking.” The device had “changed her life.”

Similarly, in New Zealand, Lions have donated Hart Walkers to help many children. In the spring of 2009, then International President Al Brandel was visiting Wellington, New Zealand, and met 7-year-old Alyssa McCarty as she was being measured for adjustments to her Hart Walker. The retired New York City police detective sat on the floor for an extended chat with the girl and saw her stand. It was a moving experience, he said.

Later that year at the 2009 International Convention in Minneapolis, Multiple District 202 of New Zealand was recognized for its work with the Hart Walkers by receiving the Best District Service Project award at the International Hero Awards ceremony.

With the help of Lions, children once confined to wheelchairs can stand up, look their friends in the eye and join in the fun.

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!



Touchstone Story #17–Lions Clubs International Foundation

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After a half-century of global expansion, Lions established Lions Clubs International Foundation in 1968 as a way to amplify the power of Lion giving.

Since 1917, individual Lions clubs and districts had achieved remarkable success in providing service to people in need. But as Lions expanded around the world, a new way of funding Lion service was needed.

The solution: LCIF, which serves as Lions Clubs International’s charitable arm. The foundation supports the compassionate work of Lions worldwide, by providing grants for local and global projects that help people to see and hear better, combat measles, provide disaster relief, support youth and improve communities.

In keeping with the phrase, “Lions Helping Lions Serve the World,” the foundation allows Lions to respond collectively by channeling funds to humanitarian projects around the globe. The structure helps Lions to help others on an even larger scale than clubs can do on their own, according to Past International President Joe Preston, who served from 2014 to 2015.

It is a “logical extension of the Lions’ model,” Preston said. Just as individuals join a Lions club “because our service is more valuable when we unite with like-minded others, we support LCIF because our funds go a lot further when put into a common pool,” he said.

Because it is centralized, and big enough to collaborate with other nonprofit groups as well corporate partners, the foundation can move quickly and effectively. Major corporations cited that efficiency when they ranked LCIF as the “best nongovernmental organization to work with” in a 2007 Financial Times survey.

Among the foundation’s most prominent successes is its SightFirst program, which funds efforts to fight the major causes of preventable and reversible blindness, and provides services to persons who are blind or have a visual impairment.

As part of that global program, LCIF supports eye screenings and sight-restoring surgeries, as well as the distribution of medications to help prevent eye diseases plaguing developing nations. Since 1999, through a high-profile partnership with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s nonprofit organization The Carter Center, LCIF has provided more than 271 million treatments to stop the parasitic infection known as river blindness, saving the sight of millions of people.

Its humanitarian efforts also include long-term funding to fight measles, a disease that claims millions of lives yearly in developing nations. LCIF raised US$10 million for vaccinations in 2012 through its One Shot, One Life measles initiative, and in the following year it committed to raising an additional US$30 million for immunization programs by 2017.

The foundation’s capacity to provide financial help has swelled dramatically over the years, as LCIF’s widely admired disaster-relief program demonstrates. Its first grant came in 1973, when it provided a modest US$5,000 to help flooding victims in South Dakota. By 2010, when an earthquake devastated parts of Haiti, LCIF mobilized US$6 million in immediate and long-term relief efforts. And when an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, the foundation provided US$21 million in aid.

LCIF also has programs designed to help young people by building schools and day care centers, and it helps youngsters learn critical life skills through the Lions Quest program.

While it is best known for funding large-scale humanitarian efforts, LCIF puts most of its dollars to work each year in the form of grants that help local Lions clubs improve their communities.

In Minnesota, for example, the foundation helped local Lions renovate the dormitory at a camp for people with mental and physical disabilities. And in the African nation of Burkina Faso, Lions of District 403A1 used an LCIF grant to build a new school for children in the remote town of Kyon.

International President Wing-Kun Tam, who served from 2010 to 2011, told LION Magazine that with its efficiency and broad focus, “LCIF is an incredible vehicle for Lions to serve both across borders and in their own communities.”

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!



Touchstone Story #56–After the Flood

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In Lions Clubs International’s first 50 years, local clubs had done their best to provide aid and hope in times of great need. But there had not been a good way to harness the collective power of Lions, other than through outside organizations. That all changed in 1968. LCI established its own charitable organization, initially called Lions International Foundation, to gather and distribute funds to Lions districts for humanitarian efforts and disaster relief, and to combat global problems such as sight loss.

The foundation was on firm footing and ready to assist when on June 9, 1972, what looked to be just an average summer thunderstorm halted in its path over the Black Hills of South Dakota and dumped 12 to 15 inches of rain in a matter of hours. It didn’t take long before the water began to rise in the canyons below.

That evening, Canyon Lake, a manmade lake just upstream from Rapid City, S.D., USA, swelled until its dam burst, sending a wall of water crashing down a creek onto Rapid City residents. The flash flood was one of the worst in U.S. history, claiming the lives of 238 people, injuring more than 3,000 and leaving 5,000 people homeless. Survivors spent hours clinging to trees and rooftops before being rescued, only to find little trace of the life they knew just hours before.

Their cries for help were heard not only by Lions on the ground, but by Lions around the world. In 1972, the foundation made its first grant to District 5-SW for US$5,000 to assist the South Dakota flood victims.

Hurricane Agnes struck just a few weeks later, flooding towns along the eastern seaboard from New York to the District of Columbia. Once again, Lions got to work. The foundation donated thousands of dollars to Lions serving the victims of the hurricane while individual Lions clubs also lent a hand. After their club was destroyed in the hurricane, Lions in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA, collected clothing and household goods for other local victims.

The foundation soon had opportunity to expand its reach to other humanitarian needs around the world. In December 1972, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Managua, Nicaragua, bringing down homes and businesses and killing thousands. Meanwhile, India continued to suffer from the ravages of a years-long drought. The foundation sent US$20,000 to Nicaragua and US$26,809 to a district in India. It also made a US$10,000 grant to a sight conservation program in Bangladesh.

Renamed Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in 1980, the foundation is still helping local Lions meet needs large and small all over the world. Because of its support—and the backing of 1.35 million Lions—when a disaster strikes or humanitarian need arises, there are few limits to what Lions can do to help.

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!


Lions and International Diabetes Federation Come Together to Tackle Diabetes

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At Lions Day with the United Nations in New York on March 24, 2018, International President Naresh Aggarwal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) President Prof. Nam H. Cho to establish a cooperative alliance in the global fight against diabetes. The two organizations will come together to help prevent diabetes and improve the quality of life for those living with diabetes worldwide.

Working together to achieve common goals

The signing of the MOU solidifies a partnership that will operate at the national, regional and global levels. The two organizations agree to cooperate in good faith to achieve common goals:

  • Prevent diabetes and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed
  • Raise diabetes awareness and provide education where it is needed
  • Development of holistic diabetes service projects to improve care
  • Elevate the issue of diabetes onto the national and global political agenda
  • Increase access to diabetes care, medication and diagnostic equipment

Diabetes is fast becoming a global health emergency

Diabetes affects 425 million adults worldwide, with the total set to reach 629 million by 2045. An estimated 90% are affected by type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable. One in two people with diabetes has not yet been diagnosed, and their diabetes is not controlled. When diabetes is uncontrolled, it can have dire consequences on health and well-being and result in a number of serious complications that impact harshly on the finances of individuals, their families and the economies of nations. People with diabetes who depend on life-saving insulin and regular monitoring to manage their condition pay the ultimate price when they cannot access affordable medication and equipment.

A timely and welcome partnership

IDF President Prof. Nam H. Cho said, “Diabetes is fast becoming a global health emergency. Lions Clubs International is a dynamic movement with a vast and influential network. Our organizations are ideally placed to collaborate and make a difference for the many millions now living with diabetes and all those at risk.”

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Touchstone Story #75–The Gift of Hearing

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Lions around the world are working to raise awareness, bring medical care and provide education to help prevent hearing loss. More than 275 million people worldwide are hearing-impaired or deaf, according to the World Health Organization.

Just as vision-related programs have been a key element of Lions Clubs International activities since before Helen Keller called on Lions in 1925 to carry out a “crusade against darkness,” Lions have also been prominent in the battle to help people with hearing impairments.

It’s an important fight. Keller, who was deaf as well as blind, understood the isolation that hearing impairments can impose.

“Blindness separates people from things,” she once said, but “deafness separates people from people.”

Lions formally identified hearing conservation as a major activity in the early 1970s. That effort gained momentum when Past International President Ralph A. Lynam, who served from 1978 to 1979, designated helping the hearing impaired as his major program.

In countries from India to the U.S., Lions have equipped special mobile screening units to screen infants for hearing problems, as early diagnosis is key to learning and socialization. These “hearing vans” go to shopping malls and crowded city neighborhoods.

Lions also offer special camps where children who are deaf can enjoy the outdoors while learning skills that help them to navigate a silent world. Some camps such as Camp Pacifica and the Lions Wilderness Camp for Deaf Children, which opened in California in 1979 and 1980 respectively, specialize in hosting children with hearing impairments. In addition, many of Lions’ summer camps for children who are disabled offer special sessions for children with hearing impairments.

Lions put their experience creating programs to improve sight and prevent blindness to work in creating programs to serve people with hearing loss. Just as Lions collect and refurbish used eyeglasses for distribution, they created the Hearing Aid Recycling Program in 2000 to refurbish and distribute hearing aids.

And just as guide dogs offer remarkable help to people who are blind or visually impaired, Lions help fund programs for dogs to guide people with hearing impairments. These hearing guide dogs are trained to respond to household sounds like a knock on the door, a smoke alarm or even a baby’s cry. “We’re all ears for the hearing impaired,” is the motto of the Lions’ hearing dog program in Australia, which trains its own dogs.

Because surgical interventions and equipment can be costly, Lions often provide financial assistance. But aid comes in other forms, too. Lions conduct public-awareness programs to educate their neighbors about protecting hearing and identifying hearing problems in youngsters. Sometimes, that guidance can be priceless.

In the U.S., at the Lions Hearing Center of Michigan in Detroit, Toni Cannon-Mitchell found counseling and free services for her son M.J. after learning he was deaf. Without the help of the Lions facility, which opened in 1999, M.J. wouldn’t have made the fine progress he has achieved “and he might not have the bright future he has now,” she said.

Discover the dynamic history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!



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