Touchstone Story–Molokai

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Hansen’s disease, more commonly known as leprosy, is a chronic bacterial infection that attacks the nervous system and could ultimately result in the loss of limbs and disfigurement.

In 1866, decades before Hawaii would be annexed by the United States, its ruler King Kamehameha V exiled a number of men and women suffering from this disease to the isolated peninsula Kalaupapa, on the island of Molokai, the fifth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Sent against their will and forced to stay, these men and women lived in caves or rudimentary shacks made of branches and were given no medical care. A Belgian priest, Father Damien de Veuster, moved to the colony in 1873 and helped to replace the run-down shacks with permanent houses. However, for decades, men, women and children throughout Hawaii who had leprosy continued to be exiled to live lives of struggle and rugged isolation.

At the dawn of the 20th century, more than a thousand men and women lived at the Molokai colony. By June 1948, the population of the colony had dropped to 280. In that year, Molokai became home to a 31-member Lions Club charter—half of whom were those with leprosy. It was the first and only civic organization at the settlement.

The charter’s birth marked a turning point for the Molokai colony that was celebrated with an all-day celebration attended by 500 Lions and guests from all around the Hawaiian islands, an event that would have been unimaginable on the peninsula just a few decades before. The new club was headed by community leaders. The local sheriff, the settlement administrator and the medical director were all Lions. The Kalaupapa Lions Club raised money for polio patients and held Christmas dinners to raise funds for people who were visually impaired. Lions planted an orchard on the island and helped build Judd Park, a scenic picnic site named for Lawrence Judd, former governor of Hawaii, Kalaupapa administrator and Lion. The club also donated a ramp for the island’s airport, through which Molokai’s many visitors have arrived, including celebrity entertainers like Shirley Temple and Red Skelton.

In 1969, the laws confining people with leprosy on Molokai were lifted, though some chose to remain on the island. With 20th century medical advances, Hansen’s disease is able to be treated and is no longer a cause for isolation and exile.

Molokai remains relatively isolated. The island sees a fraction of the visitors that explore the other Hawaiian islands, and a barge of groceries, sundries and other supplies arrives once a year to stock the local general store. But the legacy of the Kalaupapa Lions Club is proof that even those afflicted with a terrible disease can choose to give of themselves. Of the 17 total residents of Kalaupapa in 2013, eight of them were Lions. “We Serve” has rarely been so clearly modeled and exemplified as by those who, in another era, required help themselves.

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 #84–Special Interest Clubs

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No matter what the circumstance, if there is a need, there is a Lions club to meet that need. A fast-growing alternative to the traditional Lions club model, special interest clubs are attracting new members with shared interests.

In contrast to standard clubs, which draw from a cross section of their communities, special interest clubs bring together Lions with common interests or similar circumstances. Some clubs focus on helping people with diabetes, for example. Others focus on professions, such as educators or law-enforcement workers.

There are clubs for veterans, environmentalists, snowmobile fans, professional women and people with shared ethnic backgrounds. There is a ballroom dancing club in Hawaii. And there are cyber clubs that meet and conduct club business primarily online, with members logging in from around the world.

Lions have been forming special interest clubs for decades. The Benton Bay Athletic Lions Club in Anchorage, Alaska, USA, was chartered in 1984 to support local college and youth sports. The growth of specialty clubs has accelerated in recent years as societal shifts put more demands on peoples’ limited free time. Special interest groups offer a flexible format that lets Lions accommodate today’s volunteers in a way that fits their ever-changing lifestyles.

Just as with any newly formed Lions club, special interest clubs need to be sponsored by an existing club and go through a charter process. Like Lions everywhere, the members get together to perform service projects and help others, but often the projects reflect the specialty club’s area of expertise.

The El Paso Executive Women’s Lions Club in Texas, USA, offers mentoring and computer-skills training to disadvantaged young women.

Similarly, in Middletown, Virginia, USA, a group of elementary teachers, concerned about children missing preschool education, formed the Middletown Children First Lions Club. The club works with 3- to 5-year-olds to help them prepare to be successful in kindergarten. The club’s Little Lions Preschool classes have made a big difference in children’s readiness. Parent Chrissie Sison said her daughter Annalise “enjoyed every minute” of her time at Little Lions and, thanks to the Lions, “Annalise just loves school,” she added.

Explore the dynamic 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!


#LDUN Spotlight: Lion Jocelyn Broschat

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Meet young Lion Jocelyn Broschat of the Anderson Lions Club in Sacramento, California. Jocelyn will represent young Lions and Leos at this year’s Lions Day with the United Nations on March 24, 2018, speaking on a panel related to diabetes and health advocacy.

Jocelyn began her Lions journey as a participant of her local Lions Diabetes Camp – Camp McCumber. Inspired by her time as a camper, she became a camp counselor and founded a Leo club focused on service projects that benefited the camp. She is now a Registered Dietician and continues to volunteer at Camp McCumber as an assistant camp director and dietician. She also travels to various Lions clubs doing presentations on diabetes education and prevention. Read more about her experience at Lions Diabetes Camps and how she sees Lions and Leos promoting diabetes education!


What do you enjoy most about being a young person in Lions?

My favorite part of being a young Lion is the ability it gives me to support a project I am so passionate about. I was involved with the Lions Diabetes Camp at Camp McCumber long before I became a Leo or a Lion. However, as a Leo, I was able to take lead on a haunted house project that allowed my club to raise several hundred dollars for the camp. Now, my involvement as a young Lion allows me to ensure that this little camp has a future for as long as it is needed.


Why is it important that we address diabetes globally and in our communities?

Diabetes is a disease that affects people of all ages and nationalities. It is also a disease that is widely misunderstood. It is important to address diabetes globally and in our communities so that we can stop the spread of misinformation. Providing people with clear, fact-based diabetes education is the only way to improve understanding of the disease, as well as empathy for those who are affected by it.


In your experience, how do Leos and Lions address issues related to diabetes?

Lions are passionate in their quest to understand diabetes, its management, and the best means of prevention. The Lions I have worked with have also been eager to support causes that help those who live with diabetes. The Lions Diabetes Camp at Camp McCumber would not be possible if it were not for clubs who pay for the cost of campers to attend, individual Lions who seek financial support from the community, and Lion-based programs and events which help draw funds for the camp.



How can young people take action and get involved?

Getting involved with diabetes prevention and spreading awareness of the disease is the fun part. There are camps for kids with diabetes all around the United States, possibly the world, and these camps are always looking for young volunteers. There are also events such as fun runs and takeover days at amusement parks that focus on spreading information about diabetes as well as raising funds for diabetes research.


What about Lions Day with the United Nations excites you the most?

Lions Day with the United Nations represents an opportunity for me to help with the global spread of diabetes awareness. This is a topic, which, after ten years of involvement with the Lions Diabetes Camp at Camp McCumber, has become very near and dear to my heart. By speaking at Lions Day with the United Nations, I hope to spread my passion for this topic and to light in others a desire to go out, learn more, and get involved.


Follow the Leo Club Program on Facebook to get live updates from LDUN on March 24!


#TimeIsNow: 9 Ways to Transform Women’s Lives

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Today’s guest post is written by Past International Director Nilofar Bakhtiar, a Lioness since 1982 and 2017-18 Lions Representative, UN Women, Pakistan. Above photo: (Left to right) Lions Quest Trainer Ratna Choudhry, Lion Debbie Cantrell, Leo Katie Jo Jackson and PID Nilofar Bakhtiar at the 2016 Lions Day with the United Nations in New York.
International Women’s Day on March 8th is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements from political to social – while calling for gender equality. It’s a time to reflect on progress made by women and to honor acts of courage by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role. This year’s theme  is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

I request all Lions to mark the day any time during the month of March by participating in activities that reflect your commitment to the cause of gender parity.

This may include one or more of the following activities:
  • Encourage women and girls to join Lions and Leo clubs and to take leadership roles in their communities
  • Work with a local shelter to help women in need advance in their careers (assistance with resumes, practice interviews, donating business attire, etc.)
  • Provide assistance to women in prisons
  • Host a panel discussion in your community on the topic of gender equality, women’s rights, domestic violence and other women’s issues
  • Collect menstrual hygiene products and toiletry items and donate to a local women’s shelter
  • Support businesses owned and run by women
  • Host a seminar on rural and urban women change makers
  • Recognize outstanding women in various fields of life

I am confident that, in this new century of service at Lions Clubs International, our clubs around the globe will extend fullest support for International Women’s Day Celebrations.


Touchstone Story–Gardens with Purpose

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The idea came to Bruno Nascimento of the Itaipava Lions Club in Petrópolis, Brazil, as he was watching a student who was blind on a visit to the Farm Water Project.

The Farm Water Project taught environmental classes, and Bruno wondered if the student was truly enjoying the experience. He wondered: what if there was a place designed just for students who are visually impaired?

Bruno pitched his ideas to Sylva Confidence, communications director at the Farm Water Project, and agronomist Carolina Rodrigues. They were enthusiastically supportive, and with resources from the Itaipava Lions Club and the Farm Water Project, a new kind of experience was proposed, designed and launched within four months.

At noon on Dec.12, 2012, the Garden of the Senses, designed specifically for people with disabilities, senior citizens and anyone who wanted to experience the world of the senses in a new way, opened to the public.

The opening date was chosen specifically to rebut the Mayan prophecy that predicted the end of the world a few days later—a story that was all over the media at the time. “We chose that date to make clear that our intention was not only to remain on planet Earth, but to make it more humane,” Bruno said. “To give people the opportunity to coexist in harmony and to allow visitors to enjoy their senses with truth and intensity.”

The Garden of the Senses is 400 square meters, designed as a walking route through six stations. The small space can be navigated quickly, but it is designed to be experienced as a slow pace, emphasizing all five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste). It depicts every phase of a plant’s life. Most visitors take 20 to 30 minutes to tour the garden. Visitors who are not physically or visually impaired are asked to take off their shoes and put on a pair of dark sunglasses.

The first stop is the Ground Station, where visitors touch sandy soil, clay and compost. For visitors with limited mobility, soil is placed in old tires that are raised off of the ground. There is also a short hallway of grass and soil so visitors can walk on ground that is ready to be planted.

The Water Station is next, with a fish pond and a waterfall that produces a peaceful sound. The Seed Station has seed samples of various sizes and colors that visitors can touch. The Seedling Station is home to plants just beginning to sprout, while the Plant Station illustrates the sights and smells of plants on the vine.

At the Harvest Station, visitors can taste some of the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden.

“It’s amazing to realize how little we use our other senses,” Bruno said. “When I touched a flower, unhurried, with affection—realizing its texture, size and aroma—the details came out.”

Community gardens that are supported by Lions clubs have sprung up all over the world. Every year in late September, students at Whitefish Middle School in Whitefish, Montana, harvest vegetables in a garden supported by the Whitefish Lions Club. The garden produces organic squash, potatoes, zucchini and kale that go from the farm to the school cafeteria’s kitchen and ultimately winds up on their lunch trays.

“It can feed a whole school system from fall to spring,” said Lion Greg Schaffer, the Whitefish garden program director.

Community gardens provide more than just quality, organic, locally sourced food. They provide a valuable learning experience that doesn’t require a lot of resources to launch.

“A lot of space, a lot of supplies are not needed,” Bruno said. “Some old tires, rope, a space no bigger than a basketball court. And passionate people who will serve. But that’s what Lions are.”

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!



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