The traditional 50th anniversary gift is something made of gold. However, for Lions Clubs International’s 50th anniversary in 1967 the Lions decided to give rather than receive.
In the 12 months leading up to the 1967 Golden Anniversary Convention, Lions around the world collected food, medicine and building supplies for communities in need in Central and South America. On July 4 of that year, the Lions-CARE Friend-Ship set out from Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, one of many ships funded by Lions Clubs International and CARE to carry the supplies donated and gathered for the Friend-Ship mission to ports in Guatemala and other locations in Central and South America..
The year 1967 marked the 10th anniversary of the partnership between Lions and the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE). Originally established to rebuild Europe following World War II, CARE began working with Lions after the Korean War to distribute food to South Korean communities in need. The two organizations also built temporary tent-cities to house and feed refugees and families displaced by flooding of the Han River. As winter approached, CARE and the United States Lions worked with the Lions of Seoul, South Korea, to build new, permanent homes made of traditional ondol bricks.
Lions and CARE continued to work together, including raising funds for a mobile unit where volunteers could make and distribute hot meals to schools in poverty-stricken areas. Lions and CARE worked in Honduras, India, Greece, Panama and elsewhere around the world to build community centers, maintain medical schools and teach vocational skills to men and women who are blind.
The partnership between Lions Clubs International and CARE was built on a 50-year tradition of Lions serving communities in need at home and abroad. This tradition continues today. The year 1968 saw the creation of the Lions Clubs International Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting Lions’ worldwide mission to carry out essential humanitarian service projects. LCIF has expanded Lions Clubs International’s scope and ability to serve, offering grants for education and much-needed funds for emergency services and humanitarian missions. LCIF has built on Lions’ foundation of service ever since.
Earlier this month, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia. While the quake lasted only 15 seconds, more than 100 buildings collapsed and more than 100 people have perished. Thousands of people were left homeless and rescuers used their bare hands to pull people from the rubble. Hospitals were overflowing and patients were being treated outside in tents. The situation is still dire.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) responded immediately, issuing a US$100,000 Major Catastrophe grant to assist with both immediate and long-term needs. Local Lions sprang into action, offering food, blankets, medical supplies and clean water to the victims. Lions around the world have continually supported LCIF’s disaster relief area of funding, which has allowed the foundation to respond with immediate financial support. Thank you for your dedication to helping those in need.
Our thoughts go out to the victims of the Banda Aceh earthquake and to the Lions still working to help them. Please consider making a donation to the disaster relief fund so we can continue offering aid in times of catastrophe.
Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Read the rest of this month’s LCIF newsletter online.
Nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. Host a project to fight hunger in your community.
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.
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