The International Association of Lions Clubs was anything but international when formed in Chicago in 1917. At its inception, about two dozen clubs were scattered around the central United States in places such as Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. Lions suspected, however, that their group would soon live up to its multinational name. Service and volunteerism are contagious, especially when combined with a bit of fun.
It didn’t take long. Just three years later, in 1920, Lions became truly international with the establishment of its first club outside U.S. borders in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Located across the river from Detroit, Michigan, Windsor was a bustling border town in 1920, benefitting from the region’s booming automotive industry. Detroit, birthplace of the moving automobile assembly line, had just formed its own Lions club earlier that year and word was quickly spreading about the association. Windsor’s volunteer-minded citizens were intrigued. Through Lions Clubs, they could serve their growing community and improve the lives of their neighbors.
Michigan District 11 Governor Anthony Menke was known as a dynamic force in area business circles, and the enthusiastic leader was eager to make the Canadian Lions club a reality. Under his guidance, the Detroit Lions sponsored the Windsor club, which soon sprang into action and began serving fellow Canadians with Lions’ fervor. The Windsor club would later make its mark by introducing Canadians to the white cane, a safety identification tool for the visually impaired.
After founding the Windsor club in Canada, Lions moved into China and Mexico. In 1926, the first Lions Club in China was established in Tianjin (formerly Tientsin). A year later, Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo Fundadores Club joined the association with the help of Lions across the border in neighboring Laredo, Texas.
Today, Lions are serving those in need through clubs in more than 200 countries and geographic areas. As the largest service organization in the world, Lions Clubs International goes wherever the Lion-hearted are found.
Explore the exciting history of Lions clubs with the complete series of Touchstone stories.
According to its Ministry of Health, Kenya has a shortage of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) health care. There are more than 600,000 Kenyans who cannot hear properly. Without access to early treatment, they are at risk of completely losing their sense of hearing. Rendered deaf, a parent may lose the ability to work and provide for their family. It also could mean a child might not hear the loving voice of his or her mother or the instructions from their teacher at school, putting them at risk of falling behind and becoming dependent on others.
Last year, the Aruna Ahbey Oswal Trust joined forces with LCIF to create a partnership called the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF)/ Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust Humanitarian Initiative Partnership. This partnership supports LCIF’s initiatives in sight, youth, disaster relief, measles, and humanitarian efforts. Partners are a large and important part of how LCIF is able to carry out life-changing projects and programs, for example, the construction of an ENT center within M.P. Shah Hospital in Kenya.
The new, state-of-the-art Aruna Abhey Oswal Pediatric ENT Centre at the Children’s Medical Centre is addressing the dire need for ENT care in the region. Inaugurated in January 2017, the clinic provides diagnoses, evaluations, and treatments for both common and complex ENT, head, and neck complications. It is estimated that the center will provide consultations for 2,500 patients and 390 major procedures will be performed annually.
The new ENT center is an addition to a hospital that has been around since the 1930s. M.P. Shah Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital that provides medical, nursing, and rehabilitative care. Thirty percent of its revenue supports services for those who could not otherwise afford medical care.
In an area where medical care is not always affordable, this ENT center is an important component in local citizens’ healthcare. Dr. Bhupi Reel, a Consultant Pediatric Intensivist at the hospital said, “The ENT center has been an invaluable addition to the Children’s Hospital. We recently referred a 3-year-old girl who had inhaled a small whistle that was ‘whistling’ with each breath. As we now have the luxury of ENT on site, we were able to take the child to [the operating room] and remove the ‘foreign body’ less than an hour after presentation. This prevented any complicated lung infection that would have likely left her in ICU needing ventilation. In addition, this was carried out as a CSR [corporate social responsibility] activity because the family could not afford treatment. Hence, the pediatric team would like to sincerely extend our gratitude to the introduction of this service.”
The hospital is also doing ENT check-up camps at nearby schools as a corporate social responsibility activity, which means the services are performed at no cost to the patient. In addition, all of the babies born at the hospital receive special testing for hearing and ENT complications at a reduced cost to their families. For babies who do have ENT issues, treatment can begin immediately, improving the likelihood of overcoming their problems.
The Aruna Abhey Oswal Pediatric ENT Centre at the Children’s Medical Centre in M.P. Shah Hospital is just one example of the projects the LCIF/ Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust Humanitarian Initiative Partnership is addressing. Because of the partnership’s support, Kenyans who desperately need ENT care are able to get the help they may not have received otherwise.
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What seemed like routine flood warnings to the community of Rapid City, South Dakota, USA, soon turned into ravaging floods that took the lives of more than 200 people, left more than 5,000 people homeless, and created more than US$100 million in property damage. Local Lions did what would soon become our legacy, being among the first to arrive with relief. This event also marked the first grant ever awarded by Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), US$5,000 to help the community rebuild after the catastrophic floods.
Since then, every day, LCIF works to fulfill its mission: “To support the efforts of Lions clubs and partners in serving communities locally and globally, giving hope and impacting lives through humanitarian service projects and grants.” Serving alongside many dedicated Lions, LCIF has made a significant impact on the world. In fact, I am proud to announce LCIF has awarded more than 13,000 grants totaling over US$1 billion since being founded in 1968.
We reached this milestone through our continuous efforts to support Lion-led initiatives in the areas of sight, youth, disaster relief, and other humanitarian initiatives. Every day, Lions are working to make a difference. Whether you are helping a grandparent see their grandchild for the first time, educating school children in your town, cleaning up a community after a flood, or working to end measles, you are making this world a better place.
As we prepare to celebrate LCIF’s 50th anniversary, look for messages about the impact that this US$1 billion has on the world. Watch this video to learn how LCIF is changing lives for students in the Philippines who are visually impaired.
Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Nothing speaks louder to the world’s need for harmony than a child’s vision of peace—except for the collective expressions of millions of children.
Since 1988, Lions Clubs International has sponsored the annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest to encourage young people to express their perspectives on peace. Every year, as many as 400,000 children ages 11 to 13 from around the world participate in the contest. Sponsored by local clubs, the international competition reflects one of the key tenets of the Lions—to create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world.
One international grand prize winner and 23 merit award winners are chosen each year for their unique and heartfelt visions of peace created from crayon, watercolor, pencil and other mediums. All winners receive a cash prize and certificate.
Mustapha El Tawokji from war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, won the first Peace Poster Contest in 1988-1989 by expressing the theme, “Peace Will Help Us Grow,” with a dove flying over a bed of roses. While he had never known peace, he expressed his vision of what peace would be like.
Grand prize winners have come from all over the world: Italy, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and the United States, just to name a few. The artwork and creativity of every child who enters the contest is celebrated by its sponsoring Lions club. Each young artist’s work reflects his or her own experience, culture and worldview.
Visually impaired young people also have the opportunity to share their expressions of peace through the Lions International Essay Contest. Each year students ages 11 to 13 enter short essays on the same theme as the Peace Poster program for a chance to win a cash prize.
Both contests trace their roots back to a program in the 1960s called the Peace Essay Contest. To help celebrate LCI’s 50th anniversary in 1967, Lions asked young people ages 14 to 21 to submit an essay on peace. More than 1 million entries were received. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower served as honorary chairman of the international panel that chose high school student A. Russell Wodell of Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, as the winner for his essay titled, “Is Peace Attainable?”
“There is no easy road to peace,” wrote Wodell. “Only through evolution of his social, moral and intellectual values can man achieve true peace with himself.”
Young people from around the globe continue to offer Lions their expressions of peace in the hopes that one day the dream may come true.
At Lions Day with the United Nations on March 4, 2017, International President Chancellor Bob Corlew signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Madame Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
The MOU establishes a partnership between Lions Clubs International and UN Women to work towards gender equality through the promotion and inaction of UN Sustainable Goal Number 5 Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.
Through joint programming, campaigning, advocacy, fundraising and more, UN Women and Lions worldwide can achieve our common objectives: strengthening and investing in young women’s leadership, ending all forms of violence against women and girls, and strengthening the partnership with adolescent boys and young men in gender equality.
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