Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) works to address an ever-growing array of humanitarian needs around the world. Those needs vary greatly from country to country, village to village, day to day.
Located in East-Central Africa, South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Twenty years of civil war left the country with essentially no infrastructure. Only a handful of areas have running water, electricity, clinics, schools or paved roads. Half of the population lives below the international poverty line, which is less than US$2 per day. It is not surprising then that one in three South Sudanese men and one in ten South Sudanese women are literate. Very few speak English, which is the official language of South Sudan.
Research by UNICEF shows a strong positive relationship between a mother’s education and the health of her children. South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality rate and the lowest female literacy rate in the world. There, girls are more likely to die of pregnancy complications than they are to complete primary
education. One in ten children die before the age of five.
Raising the nation’s literacy rate is imperative to help lift its people out of poverty. Literacy is the foundation of development and economic prosperity, and will enable the people of South Sudan to participate fully in their emerging democracy.
To help increase literacy rates in South Sudan, LCIF awarded a Core 4 grant to Literacy at the Well (LATW). LATW is a 501c3 non-profit organization established in the US and operating in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, since 2008. Grant funds were used to meet the ever increasing demand for literacy programming in Aweil, the most heavily populated city in Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
The Aweil Women’s Leadership Center is now open! The Center will provide education for over 1,000 women and girls each week and will has begun a legacy of literacy that will improve lives for generations to come. As a post for Literacy at the Well, the center will be used not only to teach reading, writing and English, but to train future Literacy at the Well instructors and also to provide literacy instruction for community groups like police and health workers.
Families that can read are healthier and less vulnerable to oppression, are more likely to succeed and are able to help others in their community.
The child of a farming family in Gujarat, India, Jyotsana Nisarta was only 2 years old when she contracted polio. Jyotsana’s mother, already living with her own disabilities, was determined to minimize the effects of the disease on her daughter. Yet even with medical intervention, Jyotsana was left with considerable visual impairment.
Throughout her childhood, Jyotsana excelled in school. Opportunities are often limited for people with disabilities in India, so Jyotsana remained dependent on her family. Determined to work, she enrolled in a primary teachers training course. Jyotsana was disappointed when she was not selected to become a teacher because her test score had fallen just one point short, but she remained positive. That’s when the Blind Welfare Council in Dahod changed her life.
The Lions of District 323-F1 have supported the Blind Welfare Council for more than 10 years. With support from a US$63,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Lions helped to expand the council’s vocational training center. The council was able to take on more computer trainees and introduced tailoring, carpentry, Braille printing and offset printing programs. About 100 people each year will be trained for respected and well-paying jobs.
Jyotsana enrolled in the council’s computer training course. In only a matter of months, she completed the course and immediately was hired as a computer operator. Happy with her job, she made Rs 2,500 each month (US$36). The skills she learned in her classes at the Council enabled her to further her career, and Jyotsana soon was hired for a government job. She takes photos and thumbprints and issue identification cards to members of her community. Her monthly income has nearly doubled, which enables her to help her family as well as pay her own living expenses.
Together with Lions and LCIF, the Blind Welfare Council is empowering people with mental and physical disabilities throughout Dahod. For information on how your district can make difference in your community, visit lcif.org.
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of LION Magazine.
Today’s post is by Aberystwyth Lions Club President and Charter President of the Laoac United Lions Club Benjamin Manluctao, who helped organize a Centennial Service Challenge project aimed toward combating hunger and engaging youth. These children are just some of the 100 million people already benefiting from Lions’ Centennial projects around the world.
Aberystwyth Lions of 105W and the Laoac United Lions in Northern Philippines have shown their commitment to the Lions motto: We Serve. The Project: A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body is a month long feeding program to combat hunger. It is also aimed at Engaging the Youth for leadership. Good nutrition, a healthy mind and a healthy body are crucial to the improvement of academic performance of school children, who one day will lead their communities. This project is dedicated to all pupils in the world whose future is our concern.
The program is a result from a conducted Community Needs Assessment, which guided us to carry out this particular service project intended for the most vulnerable and least fortunate members of the community chosen by the teachers and village leaders.
The program is a sound investment in the education of the young. There is a connection of good nutrition to improved daily school attendance — when children eat healthy, there is much better concentration in class, resulting in better class participation. It certainly is also a factor in reducing dropouts in the middle of the school year.
The main beneficiaries of the school feeding program are the undernourished school children, especially the children in the elementary grades as they are inclined to catch cold, diseases or infections. At the start of the program, all the participants were taken a base weight and height as a basis. Attendance and participation are also monitored. The acquisition of the basics of Literacy and Numeracy is closely watched by the teachers, with whom the children spend a lot of time during the day. Every day, meals served varies — hot dishes are healthy, delicious and definitely nutritious. As one of the parents commented, “The food served is loaded.”
I believe the youth of today will someday lead their communities and the world. What kind of leaders they be will depend to a large extent on how we, their elders, prepare and educate them today. These children of today are the future!
Leaser Lake in eastern Pennsylvania, 45-feet deep before unrelenting seepage, eventually became a kind of ghost lake. By 2001, the 120-acre, man-made lake was an eerie landscape of weeds, small trees and even pieces of an old farm that was swallowed when the lake was filled in the 1960s. Attempts to fix the seepage failed, and the surrounding park was mothballed.
The Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation (LLHF) labored for years to get several government entities to supply nearly $5 million—enough to repair the dam and refill the lake. The repairs were completed in 2015.
Bringing life back to the park became much more than just filling the lake with water. LLHF had big dreams for Leaser Lake: it hoped to provide recreation opportunities to those who otherwise found them just out of reach. It wanted individuals with limited mobility to be able to explore lakeside paths, fish from a floating dock or even slip into a kayak for a paddle on the water. But those were expensive dreams.
Lion Tom Kerr, a foundation board member, presented a plan to raise the money to fellow Lions who shared his affinity for Leaser Lake. The lake is a source of pride for locals in the sleepy but picturesque farmland.
The plan called for a park fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its trails, picnic tables, toilets and parking would be accessible to those with disabilities. The Kempton Lions Club committed to raising money to fund a fishing pier and a kayak launcher. The LLHF committed to several other pieces of the puzzle.
The idea of facilitating positive, unique outdoor experiences for people with limited mobility energized the Lions. There was nothing like this within 100 miles of Kempton.
Over two years, the Kempton Lions, aided by the neighboring Ontelaunee Lions Club, generated more than $7,000 through fundraising. Meanwhile, Kerr applied for grants from the Lions of Pennsylvania Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation, garnering US$49,500—enough to pay for the fishing pier and launcher.
The Lions and LLHF worked with a local manufacturer and an engaged group of local adaptive kayakers. The athletes tested prototypes at the manufacturer’s facility and at the lake.
“In the process of developing the boat launcher, I had a greater understanding of the limitations of a wheelchairbound person, as well as many things an able-bodied person takes for granted,” admits Kerr. “Understanding the impact this project has on the lives of those with mobility issues makes this project very gratifying.”
The project was dedicated in October 2015. During the inauguration ceremony, Mike White, who has spina bifida, rolled his wheelchair down the gangway with ease and paddled off into the open water. “It is liberating. One of the nicest feelings is to look and feel like everybody else,” White says.
Sporting his yellow vest, Kerr beamed with pride at what Lions achieved. “I hope this project, done by a small group of people, can serve as a testament to other small clubs that they, too, can do big projects.”
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of LION Magazine.
Lions have taken up the challenge of promoting reading worldwide.
It is important work, aimed at helping lift millions of people out of hardship. Learning to read lets people acquire the skills and knowledge they need “to overcome poverty, disease and other social ills,” said Past International President Wayne A. Madden, who served from 2012 to 2013. Literacy, he said, is “a gift Lions can give to children and adults around the world.”
Globally, nearly 1 billion adults cannot read and write. The issue isn’t just a challenge for developing regions, either. In the United States, 21 million people can’t read, and millions more have reading skills so limited that they have difficulty with common tasks such as reading signs or workplace instructions.
The Reading Action Program, launched in 2012, is a 10-year Lions commitment to focus on strengthening global literacy. The program calls for Lions to organize service projects and activities that underscore the importance of reading.
Lions clubs around the world have responded with a broad variety of community-based, person-to-person efforts. Some have helped develop after-school reading programs. Others have volunteered to read to children at local libraries, work as reading tutors or donate books and computers. Whatever the project, Lions say the work is deeply satisfying.
“I get tears in my eyes when I see these children improving their reading on a daily basis. It’s worth my time indeed,” said Jean-Marie Willem, a member of the Bruxelles Saint Hubert Lions Club in Belgium, which created an after-hours school reading program staffed by Lion volunteers.
In Hawaii, the West Kauai Lions Club holds bingo games for kids. The prize? A book. “It’s a good project, because it promotes reading,” said club member Charles Ortiz.
The Nagoya West Lions Club in Japan teamed up with the Makati Golden Lions of metropolitan Manila to build a library for children in the Philippines, then donated new computers and educational software. “Computers are necessary nowadays,” said Shinzo Suzuki, a member of the Nagoya West Club. “So I like (young people) to study or get more knowledge about computer use.”
Many reading efforts tie in with Lions’ longstanding efforts to help people with visual impairments. Leos and Lions from Multiple District 107 in Finland recorded stories, fairy tales and poems, then published the recordings online so children with visual impairments could listen.
The Montclare Elmwood Park Lions Club in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, held a reading carnival for more than 100 children, treating them to story time, a puppet theater, face painting, crafts, balloon twisting and snacks.
To increase the literacy program’s impact, Lions have joined forces with other organizations that have the same goal, including Reading is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization in the U.S. And at the 2012 International Convention in Busan, South Korea, Lions announced a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s global literacy campaign, saying USAID and Lions both believe that “literacy is critical to the future of all children.”
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