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!



Touchstone Story #54–Lions and Little League

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Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, but it started with one man, two kids and a lilac bush.

In the summer of 1938, Carl Stotz, a clerk at an oil company in Williampsort, Pennsylvania, tossed a baseball around the yard with his two young nephews.

Chasing a runaway ball, Stotz scraped his ankle on the pointy stems of a trimmed lilac bush. In frustration, he asked his nephews, “How would you like to play on a regular team, with uniforms, a new ball for every game, and bats you could really swing?”

Stotz’s nephews loved the idea, of course. But they asked, “Who would we play?”

Thus, the idea for Little League was born. Stotz called in a squad of volunteers and business sponsors. He carved the first Little League home plate himself, and the plates for first, second and third base were white canvas stuffed with wood shavings. When Little League’s coffers came up short, Stotz poured his own money in to make up the difference. He had considered the ministry in his younger days, but with Little League—and this particular service to his community—he’d found his life’s purpose.

A decade of service, naturally, brought him to the Lions. Stotz joined the Williamsport Newberry Lions Club in 1949, and the Lions in turn worked to support Little League. Both organizations saw unprecedented growth in the 1950s and ’60s. The pages of LION Magazine featured numerous articles on support for the League:

    • The Elyria Lions Club built the first Little League field in Elyria, Ohio, in 1950.
    • A Little League park was built on the Navaho-Hopi Indian Reservation with funds from the Tuba City Lions Club in Arizona in 1957.
    • The Leavenworth Lions of Kansas visited a nearby federal penitentiary for an exhibition game in 1959.

More recently, Lions donations and a grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation helped build a Little League tournament stadium in Panama.

Stotz parted ways with the Little League organization in 1956, but today there is a statue of Stotz at Volunteer Stadium in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, part of the Little League World Series stadium complex. Stotz’s lifetime of service lives on with every crack of the bat and every cheer from the stands, win or lose, during a Little League game. And of course, all around the country, Lions-sponsored teams and Little League parks are emblematic of the continuing partnership between Little League and Lions.

Explore the dynamic history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!


Leos and Young Lions Facilitate Session at District Governors-Elect Seminar (DGE)

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In June, 26 Leos and young Lions will serve as facilitators at District Governors-Elect (DGE) Seminar. This prestigious opportunity is the first time Leos and young Lions will participate and host a session at DGE Seminar.

The session, titled “Our Future: Leos and Young Lions,” will discuss inter-generational relationships in the organization and encourage Lion leaders to discover how young people can act as partners in their clubs. Each selected young person will be matched to a distinguished DGE Seminar Group Leader to prepare to facilitate the session over the next few months. Leos and young Lions bring a fresh perspective to clubs with new ideas and innovation that can challenge and advance our service goals. By understanding the importance and worth of young people, the District Governors-Elect can mentor the clubs in their district and move Lions towards the future.

The Leos and young Lions were selected exclusively because of their individual ideas and accomplishments. The application consisted of an extensive questionnaire that assessed their strengths and experience in leadership as well as their thoughts about bridging gaps and collaborative work in service across generations. The applications were then reviewed internally in a first round by LCI staff with final selection given by 1st VP Gudrun Yngvadottir.

From the competitive process, 26 Leos and young Lions were selected from 18 countries, speaking 14 different languages. Please join us in congratulating the 2018 – 2019 DGE Leo and young Lion facilitators.


Leo/ Young Lion Facilitator Name Country
Bonnie McKenzie Australia
Othmar Fetz Austria
Pieter Hens Belgium
Shahenda Refaat Egypt
Teemu Laitinen Finland
Stephane Miquel France
Aayush Bagla India
Valentina Pilone Italy
Mengzhen Lim Japan
Shehzan Luhar Kenya
Joe Lim Chuan Zhou Malaysia
Ka Kai Fong (Potter) Malaysia
Wong Tze Cheng Malaysia
Marco Guzmán Romero Perú
Wong Cheng Yung Bobby Singapore
Rajitha Abeygunasekara Sri Lanka
Emma Björk Sweden
Juan Manuel Cáceres Uruguay
Jee-Ho Kang USA
Marifel Frances Gabriel USA
Paul Fugate USA
Amanda Silibaziso Moyo Zimbabwe
Liberty Robbie Martinson Zimbabwe
Pritchard Muzanarwo Zimbabwe
Tanyaradzwa Shanitah Nzvengende Zimbabwe
Wilson Tafirenyika Chadzamira Zimbabwe


Join us in Las Vegas for the 101st International Convention. Register for LCICon: 2018 Las Vegas today!


Leos at a measles event in Madagascar

Leo Service Grants Now Available for Application

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Leos, the good news you have been waiting for has arrived; Leo service grants are now available for application! Leos, you can now reach more people and create bigger impact with your own service projects, bettering the communities around you or across the world.

Grants may be awarded through Lions districts or multiple districts, up to US$2,500 for districts or US$5,000 for multiple districts. Grants will fund service projects that have a community-wide impact, and meet an unmet humanitarian need. Priority consideration will be given to projects that align with our global causes; diabetes, environment, hunger, vision, and childhood cancer.

This is your chance to let your community know that Leos are a force for positive change! What are you hoping to accomplish? Is there a river in your neighborhood that needs cleaning? Could your town benefit from a community garden? Has a natural disaster damaged your community center?

To learn more about this exciting new opportunity, click the link below, which will provide you with information and the application, or visit the Leo service grant webpage.

Leo Service Grant Criteria & Application– In English


Touchstone Story #21–One Vision

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Blinding trachoma, one of humanity’s oldest and most stubborn diseases, is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. The disease spreads easily, entering the eye along several common pathways–unwashed hands and faces, close contact between mothers and children and flies feeding on the discharge produced by infection. Untreated, trachoma follows a long and agonizing progression from irritation and swelling of the eyelid, to gradual loss of vision and, eventually, blindness.

Long absent in the developed world, trachoma remains endemic in wide areas of Africa, Asia and Central and South America. An estimated 41 million people are infected with the disease, and nearly 8 million suffer from its late stages or are blind because of it.

In Ethiopia, 75 percent of the population is at risk of infection. In many remote villages, trachoma affects whole families for generations, leaving them trapped in poverty. As First International Vice President Jim Ervin noted on a 1998 fact-finding mission hosted by the Lions of Ethiopia, “I came back and said, ‘God, what can we do? We’ve got to do something.’”

A longtime member of the Albany Lions Club, Ervin turned to another Georgia Lion for help: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. At the time, The Carter Center in Atlanta had been actively engaged in the fight against trachoma for several years. Ervin asked Carter if he would help secure supplies of a powerful and easily administered antibiotic Zithromax for Lions’ grassroots eradication efforts in Ethiopia.

Proudly wearing their Lions pins, Carter and Ervin were soon sitting down to meet with top international executives at New York-based Pfizer Inc., maker of the drug. They shared the history of Lions’ long involvement in sight-related causes and described the campaign against trachoma in Ethiopia and other African countries. “We need the Zithromax for what we’re trying to do,” Carter said. Heads nodded. And an answer came back at once: Pfizer would donate the sight-saving drug.

Ten years later, on Jan. 23, 2008, Ervin who served as international president from 1999 to 2000, was back in Ethiopia to take part in celebrating a milestone in the fight against trachoma: the administration of the 10 millionth dose of Zithromax in that country. The ceremony included Lions Clubs International Foundation Chairperson Jimmy Ross, representatives of Pfizer and The Carter Center, government officials, health care workers and Lions from Ethiopia. But the most important person there was Messeleche Tilahun, 16, who received the milestone dose. Like millions of Ethiopians, her future was suddenly brighter. And she would see every moment of it.

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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