Mendoza is a cultural center of northern Argentina, a city nestled near the Andes Mountains. Known for its wineries, it’s a popular South American tourist destination.
Just 80 kilometers outside of the city is a small school that offers classroom instruction and individual attention to students who have vision or hearing impairment or other disabilities. Supported by the Mendoza Tunuyán Lions Club since its inception, the school began in 1994 as a single room with only four students.
“The Lions are very important to our school,” said school director Laura Cebrelli. “They supported us from the day we started. Lions Clubs International Foundation provided a grant to help us expand our building.”
The school now provides individualized attention for 75 students, thanks to expansion efforts. The Mendoza Tunuyán Lions Club continues to provide financial support, teaching materials and up-to-date technology for the school.
Lions clubs have long provided support to help ensure that students who have disabilities get a great education. In 1963, the Oregon State School for the Blind in Salem was overseen by Superintendent Charles Woodcock and Principal Raymond Rowe, both of them Lions, and both committed to providing their students with individualized attention. Members of the Salem Lions Club donated playground equipment and a new school bus, and offered general assistance to the school staff. Education meant more than just scholarship. It was also about teaching self-reliance, self-esteem and independence.
“Varied experiences are the basis for suitable development of children, whether the goals be education, vocation or social relationships,” Rowe said.
In 1985, Lions clubs of Southern California worked to support the Braille Institute of Los Angeles, teaching vocational skills to adults with vision impairments. Lions donated camping equipment and sponsored field trips and athletic competitions for students at the Braille Institute—events that fostered a positive social environment and helped the students cultivate positive self-esteem.
Natividad Dias, the mother of a student at the Mendoza school, said the support from the Mendoza Tunuyán Lions Club was gratifying for parents. “The best thing the school has taught my daughter is self-esteem,” she said.
“Recognizing what kind of student you have and how best to teach them is a challenge,” said Mendoza teacher Erica Leguizamon. “But I love exploring which tools and strategies will help my students learn as individuals and as a group.”
Individualized attention—and teaching students to be independent—helps the Mendoza school prepare its students for adulthood.
“I’ve not only learned to read and write, but I’ve learned to dream,” said Mendoza student Rodrigo Morani. “This school has helped me become a better and more confident person.”
“I hope you will adopt me. I am the youngest here,” Helen Keller said in her famous “Knights of the Blind” speech to Lions at the 1925 International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA.
Keller was speaking figuratively, of course. She was 45 years old at the time. But the story she shared of her early childhood blindness and her heartrending struggle for independence as a girl left a lasting impression. It was one of a few key moments that led many Lions clubs to adopt sight as a major global service area.
Since Helen Keller’s challenge in 1925, Lions’ service to sight has been realized in myriad ways. It has helped countless children to see or to see more clearly and to access the tools and resources needed to reach their potential. Lions have supported schools and summer camps for blind children, provided eye health education, screened for vision problems and provided free eyeglasses. Many local Lions clubs have raised funds to cover the cost of eye surgery for children in their communities. Lions clubs and Lions Clubs International Foundation have also mobilized more than US$400 million in SightFirst funding to prevent blindness and build local eye health capacity.
Children’s eye health has emerged as a global concern in recent decades, and Lions are leading the way for children’s specific eye care needs.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 million children worldwide are irreversibly blind, and tens of millions suffer from conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism that may hinder their ability to learn. Lions have worked hard for the past century to develop innovative programs and establish global partnerships that help more children see.
In 1998, Lions Clubs International introduced Lions World Sight Day, a global event that has become a showcase for Lions’ service efforts to promote children’s eye health. For example, thanks to local Lions, nearly 4,000 children in Sao Paulo and Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, received vision and eye health screenings. The WHO adopted World Sight Day, held on the second Thursday of October, as an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
In 2002, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., the Lions Clubs International Foundation launched Sight for Kids, a school-based program that mobilizes volunteers to provide vision screening, professional eye exams, eyeglasses and other services. The program has become one of the Lions’ largest and most impactful partnership programs.
As of 2015, more than 125,000 Lions and other volunteers have worked to bring the Sight for Kids program to more than 20 million children throughout Asia, India and the Philippines. Among those children, Sight for Kids has referred more than 800,000 children to eye care professionals for further evaluation and provided eyeglasses to more than 250,000 children. In 2014, the program expanded to Turkey and Kenya.
Among newer Lions initiatives of the 21st century, Sight for Kids remains an important partnership among for Lions and LCIF, and it is sparking even more partnerships to help children see. Learn more about Sight for Kids today.
The founder and guiding light of the Lions club in Ponce Inlet, Florida—the late Constance D. Hunter—was a remarkable, generous woman. To honor her larger-than-life legacy, club members constructed a magnificent fountain dedicated to her memory in Timucuan Oaks Garden.
“When our town was developing a new park along the Halifax River,” explained Ponce Inlet Lions Club president Shirley Okhovatian, “they asked us if we would like to help fund the initiative or install a Lions monument. We jumped at the opportunity to provide a memorial to honor Connie, who gave so much of her time and money to get our club up and running, and beyond. We decided to remember her with a beautiful fountain, which actually accomplished three things: we celebrated her life, celebrated the Lions Centennial and completed a Legacy Project.”
The Ponce Inlet Lions Club was not only the major donor for the park and provider of the decorative fountain, it also dedicated two concrete memorial benches to honor charter Lions Hazel Dauksis and her husband, now deceased. These contributions established a proud and permanent Lions legacy and awareness in the town that will endure for generations to come.
The official opening and dedication ceremony of the park was in January of 2016. The Lions hope that the park will eventually feature memorials to future Lions who provide equally outstanding service to the community.
“It’s our responsibility to remember these early leaders and share their enormous contributions with the next generation of Lions, so that they can experience what we’re all about and want to be a part of it,” said Okhovatian. “It’s easy to carry a torch that’s already burning. Connie Hunter was the one who lit the fire.”
What will your Lions club legacy be? Start planning your Legacy Project today!
For 100 years, Lions have left their mark on the world by giving help and hope to its most vulnerable populations. As we enter our second century of humanitarian service, the world needs us now more than ever.
In order to meet the emerging needs of our changing world, we’ve developed a five-year plan called LCI Forward.
LCI Forward is a road map for Lions to plan, implement and achieve our vision for a better future. It’s designed to help Lions triple our humanitarian impact and serve 200 million people a year by 2021.
To accomplish this incredible feat, LCI Forward focuses on:
We’re encouraging Lions and Leos to come together to increase our impact by serving in their communities and inviting their families, friends and neighbors to join them in service. Visit the LCI Forward page to learn more and get a special glimpse into the future of Lions Clubs International, and how together, we’re changing the world for the better.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a 9.0-plus magnitude earthquake occurred under the Indian Ocean near the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Within hours, a series of immense waves as high as 50 feet struck 11 countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean. More than 230,000 people lost their lives and more than one million people were displaced as a result of the South Asian tsunami—the deadliest in recorded history.
“The ocean took everything,” said Ranjan Jayawardane, a member of the Wellawatte West Lions Club in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Lions were among the first on the scene to provide help to victims, responding with their own waves of generosity and care. In Sri Lanka, Lions partnered with the government to organize aid, working 16-hour days to send supplies and put up tents at relocation camps. Eighty Lions in the medical profession volunteered to provide first aid near Chennai, India, while nearly 70 clubs distributed food and clothing. In Indonesia and Thailand, local clubs gave food, clothing, shelter and medical treatment to refugees.
Lions Clubs International Foundation also mobilized to send relief. LCIF had created disaster-response models following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York to help Lions act quickly when disaster strikes. The models estimate how much funding will be needed by analyzing the areas and numbers of people affected, current and future needs, how long recovery efforts are expected to last and other considerations. As soon as news of the tsunami reached LCIF, Lions put the models in place and started fundraising.
Lions raised US$15 million. Every dollar raised went to Lions in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand to help rebuild homes, schools and orphanages. At the time, it was the largest reconstruction effort in LCIF history.
“Some people had lost families, everything, but Lions stood by them,” said Sangeeta Jatia, past international director from Kolkata, West Bengal, and a member of the Calcutta Midtown Lions Club in India. “There was somebody who they could depend on.”
Long after the waves and initial shock had receded, Lions from around the world continued to pour out their time, energy and resources, helping to rebuild lives and entire communities.
Five years after the natural disaster, Luis Domínguez, past international director from the Mijas Lions Club in Mijas Pueblo, Spain, visited a village in Sri Lanka that Lions assisted in reconstructing. The community, known as “Lions Village” among local residents, was blossoming once again—with new houses, a playground and community center, and sewing machines to help jumpstart economic development.
“What can I say about happy children?” Domínguez said, watching carefree children enjoy their new playground. “I will leave it to your imagination.”
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