Touchstone Story: One Voice, Many Speakers

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Lions around the world share many values and interests, but there’s one thing they don’t have in common: language.

While Lions Clubs International was born in America’s Midwestern heartland, Lions’ ideals of service and community engagement have captured the imagination of people around the globe. Lions are active in more than 200 nations and every time zone.

The expansion represents powerful evidence that the Lions’ fundamental message of service is universal. But it also represents a challenge.

The Lions’ overseas growth moved into its highest gear in the years following World War II, and soon the English language wasn’t enough to serve its members. In the decade after the war, clubs opened in France, Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, Pakistan and other countries. By the end of 1950, the LION Magazine was being published in seven languages. By 2015, the LION Magazine appeared in 20 languages.

From Azerbaijan to Vanuatu, Lions speak to the need for service. But in order to keep Lions’ mission from getting lost in translation, Lions go to great lengths to convey one clear voice to its far-flung clubs.

Lions Clubs International maintains a staff of 26 in-house translators and language assistants at its international headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, USA. Every day, the translators convert a mountain of text into LCI’s 11 official languages, including English. “We’re a clearinghouse” for all kinds of Lion international communications, and the task continues to grow, said Beirut-born Silva Melkonian, who speaks four languages and is a manager with the headquarters translation operation.

The volume and variety of foreign-language materials that flow in and out of the headquarters is daunting. Letters, emails and manuals have to be translated from English into Swedish, French, Japanese, Finnish, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian and Korean—all the official languages in which LCI conducts business. The documents include financial records, grant requests, annual reports, policy documents, seminar information and board-meeting transcripts.

The translators’ work is challenging, and not a chore that’s easily outsourced. “Lions have their own lexicon,” with specific language and specialized acronyms, said Melkonian.

The work frequently moves beyond simple conversational text. Lions communications often involve complex financial terminology, medical terms and legal language that translators take pains to research to make sure the translation is precise. For example, translators work hard to stay current on the technical language relating to cataract operations and corneal transplants—information that is vital to Lions’ global fight to prevent blindness.

Thanks to Lions’ translators, Lions are staying connected all around the world.

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


#LDUN Spotlight on Leo Katie Jo

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Today’s post features an interview with Leo Katie Jo, president and charter member of the Sundre High Leo Club. Katie Jo will be attending this year’s Lions Day with the United Nations on March 12, 2016, and will participate in a round table discussion on the topic of Gender Equality and Peace.

What do you like about being a Leo?

Being a Leo has enabled me to voice my ideas and opinions, and make a positive change in my community and in my world. The Leo Club Program has helped me develop my public speaking, listening and organizational skills. I have always felt welcomed and valued in the Leo club, which has given me the confidence to make an impact. It has channeled me into a life of service, and played a huge part in helping me to realize my passion in helping others.


Why is gender equality important to you?

Gender equality is important to me because it’s important for the good of today’s society.  Society will not reach its full potential as long as the potential of half of the population is not met. The issues we are facing today will need the benefits of the full population. Women have irreplaceable values that can make society and the world’s economy flourish.


How has your Leo club addressed gender equality issues?

My Leo club has done much to address gender equality issues, and I am so proud of our work. Last year, we created and delivered $4,000 worth of care packages to the Central Alberta Women’s Shelter to make the women and children who utilize the services more comfortable. We also hosted a Compassion Week at our school, raising awareness and showing support to those in our school that may feel marginalized, such as those who identify as LGBTQ. As well, we hosted a Youth Female Empowerment Seminar where young ladies where trained by a martial artist in self defense; a lawyer came in and discussed legal issues around domestic violence; and the Red Cross came in as well to speak about healthy relationships. We also put together a presentation to show to the Grade Nines in our school what domestic violence is, the impact it has, and how to help someone who is experiencing it.


How can young people take action and get involved?

I believe it is extremely important for young people to get involved and take action about issues that they care about. We are lucky in that there are many avenues for youth to take so that they can make a difference. Youth can start by joining service groups like the Leo club, where they feel respected and empowered. I cannot express enough how strongly I feel about how powerful youth can be in creating change. As youth, we are smart, creative, innovative, and full of endless amounts of energy and passion! If you are a young person who is passionate about creating change and helping others, it is important for you to realize your worth and your ability to be impactful. Collaborate with others, be inspired and don’t be discouraged by setbacks!


What are you most looking forward to for Lions Day with the United Nations?

I am beyond excited for my trip to New York to attend LDUN. I am really looking forward to be able to have a conversation with people who are passionate about making a positive change and helping young women and girls everywhere to see their potential. I can’t wait to be inspired by those who have done so much, and to come back to my home town with more ideas about how to help my community and my world. I can’t wait to showcase the amazing work my Leo club has done, as well.

We’ll be on social media sharing amazing conversations with Katie Jo and other Lions and UN representatives at LDUN. Follow @lionsclubs and search for #LDUN on Twitter for live Tweets on March 12!


Expanding a School and Providing Clean Water in Cambodia

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The Lions of District 356-F in Korea have received a Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Standard grant for US$30,000 to expand a school in Siem Reap Province in Cambodia.

Lions of Korea traveled to Cambodia to build the new classroom building on the school grounds. They also installed a water well which is providing clean water not only to the students but to the entire village. This project is expected to benefit more than 200 students and 500 community members each year.

The District 356-F Lions, together with the local Siem Reap Angkor Wat Lions Club, will provide ongoing support as needed. IMG_9863




Leos in Love

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Leo clubs provide young people with an opportunity to serve their communities and make a positive impact. They also offer a great way to have fun, make new friends and even find LOVE. Many Leos and former Leos meet their spouses through the Leo Club Program. Read more about several couples below.

Leo Ida Forsell & Lion Antti Forsell

Family Forsell

Ida became a Leo in 2003 after participating in Lions Youth Exchange Program. In 2004, Antii Forsell was serving as the president of the Leo Europa Forum (LEF) in Saariselkä Finland. That same year, Ida was selected to attend the event.

“It took us a few years to realize how we felt about each other, but now we have been together since LEF 2006. We got married in 2011, and our son was born 2014. My husband is a Lion now, and I’m about to join his club since my Leo years are almost behind me. Leos have truly been a life changing experience to me (us) in so many ways!”

Leo Vivien Yee & Leo Steven Tiw

Photo of Vivien & Steven

Vivien and Steven met at the District 308 B2 Omega Leo Conference in 2015. Steven is the founding president of the Ipoh Central Omega Leo Club in Malaysia, and Vivien is the current Leo Club President of the Alor Star Leo Club.

“Knowing each other is just lucky, but building the road of love requires faith and commitment. Our love journey is just like how a clap sound works. With a single hand, a clap sound will never be heard, therefore our relationship symbolizes a successful hand clap, which is only possible with the presence of Leo program.”

Leo Tosin Akinwale & Lion Shogo Oloshunde

Wedding photo of Tosin & Shogo

Shogo, who now serves as a Lion, and Tosin met in 2008. Both have served as Leo District President of 404 A1 in Nigeria. The two were married on October 3, 2015. Leo Tosin describes her husband as a very caring and loving person, who will go to any length to put smiles on people’s faces. Lion Shogo describes his wife as the only woman who will truly understand him.

“We met in 2008, and we continue to grow and gather strength.”

Leo Anna Jacobs & Leo Guido Martens

Photo of Anna & Guido at 2013 LCICon

The picture above was taken on the day that Anna (4th from left) and Guido (3rd from left) met in 2013 at LCICon in Hamburg. The two discovered that both would attend Leo Europa Forum (LEF) in Finland later that year. They stayed in contact and were even on the same plane from Amsterdam to Tallinn for the pre-program. Anna and Guido married in November 2015.

Guido has been a Leo for 4 years in Maastricht where he was a member of the team that organized the National Convention of 2014. In 2013, he accepted the 3 year position of the International Liaison Officer (ILO) of the Netherlands. His first international event was the LEF 2012 in Belgium.

Anna has been a Leo in Krefeld since 2006, where she had different board positions. Over the years, she travelled to almost every National Convention, but she never made it to an international event until 2013. Currently she is the ILO of Germany.

“While we are rather different in many things, being a Leo and everything that comes with it unites us as friends and as a couple as well. We are very grateful to have found someone to share our lives and the passion of social service with.”


Touchstone Story: Black Saturday – Bushfires in Australia

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When a series of wildfires raced across Australia’s southern state of Victoria in 2009—destroying homes and even entire rural towns—Lions from near and far swiftly responded with emergency aid.

Bushfires are always a concern during the late summer, but a prolonged drought and oppressive heat had made the countryside unusually vulnerable that year. More than 400 fires struck the area northeast of Melbourne on February 7. The natural disaster, which came to be known as Black Saturday, was the deadliest wildfire in the country’s history. Driven by 60-mile-per-hour winds, flames reached 300 feet into the sky, moving so fast that they caught some people fleeing in their cars. The fires claimed 173 lives and destroyed thousands of homes. The picturesque town of Marysville was razed in 26 minutes, as were two smaller villages.

“Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters, after touring the smoldering region.

As emergency aid began to arrive, Lions from across Australia and around the world took the lead. Australian Lions established a fire disaster relief drop-off center that served as a distribution warehouse from which members made deliveries to the hardest-hit areas.

“Mate, there wasn’t a dry eye in the car,” District Governor David Jones of the Melbourne Lions Club told LION Magazine after he toured the scorched Marysville area with International Vice President Sid L. Scruggs III, who went on to serve as international president from 2011 to 2012.

While Lions Clubs International Foundation immediately provided US$185,959 in grants, Australian Lions clubs went to work raising a much larger total. Australians take pride in their tradition of neighbors helping each other, and the fire sparked a diverse batch of aid efforts.

In the tiny town of Yinnar, Lions collected hay and distributed it to local farmers whose grazing lands had burned, so they could feed their animals. Another club raised money by sponsoring a benefit country music concert.

In Sydney, members of the Hornsby Leo Club staged a fashion show to raise relief funds. Members of the Ballina and East Ballina Lions clubs near Melbourne solicited donations at shopping malls, collecting nearly US$12,000 in their white plastic buckets. And Lions in the town of Trentham made six life-size fiberglass statues of the Australian creatures known as wombats available for sale in benefit fundraisers.

For fire victims, the help was a blessing. “Last week the Lions supplied us with furniture. Today the Lions have brought up a fantastic truckload of goods. When you go from absolutely nothing to within a couple of weeks we’re comfortable, we’re quite overwhelmed by all of that,” said Christine Adam.

It was devastating to lose everything, said Leanne Camilleri, a mother of five from Clonbinane. But in the aftermath of the fire “people started ringing us and said, ‘Well, look, the Lions can help you out,’” she said. “I can’t get over the generosity of people. … I can’t thank them enough.”

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


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