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Lions Clubs International

Lions Clubs International (LCI) is the world's largest secular service organization with over 44,500 clubs and more than 1.4 million members in 201 countries around the world. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, United States, the organization strives to meet the needs of communities on a local and global scale. A diverse organization, LCI currently supports the eleven following languages: Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.

Lions Clubs International was founded in the United States in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a Freemason and Chicago businessman. Jones asked, with regard to his colleagues, "What if these men who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?" Jones' personal code, "You can't get very far until you start doing something for somebody else," reminds many Lions of the importance of community service.

At the local, zone, region, district, and international level, Lions members exemplify their motto “We Serve.” Lions Clubs focus on programming related to sight conservation, hearing and speech conservation, diabetes awareness, youth outreach, international relations, environmental issues, and other programs that support the local communities where Lions live. Lions are also passionate about developing effective leadership skills in their members and have an extensive leadership development program including an online Lions Learning Center and several leadership institutes.

Purpose

Lions International purposes include the following:

  • To create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world.
  • To promote the principles of good government and good citizenship.
  • To take an active interest in the civic, cultural, social and moral welfare of the community.
  • To unite the clubs in the bonds of friendship, good fellowship and mutual understanding.
  • To provide a forum for the open discussion of all matters of public interest; provided, however, that partisan politics and sectarian religion shall not be debated by club members.
  • To encourage service-minded people to serve their community without personal financial reward, and to encourage efficiency and promote high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works and private endeavors.

Charitable work

Much of the focus of Lions Clubs International work as a service club organization is to raise money for worthy causes. All funds raised by Lions Clubs from the general public are used for charitable purposes, and administrative costs are kept strictly separate and paid for by members. Some of the money raised for a club’s charity account goes toward projects that benefit the local community of an individual club.

Service projects

Lions Clubs plan and participate in a wide variety of service projects that meet the international goals of Lions Clubs International as well as the needs of their local communities. Examples include donations to hospices, or community campaigns such a Message in a bottle, a United Kingdom initiative which places a plastic bottle with critical medical information inside the refrigerators of vulnerable people. Money is also raised for international purposes. Some of this is donated in reaction to events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Other money is used to support international campaigns, coordinated by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), such as Sight First and Lions World Sight Day, which was launched in 1998 to draw world media attention to the plight of sight loss in the third world.

Lions focus on work for the blind and visually impaired began when Helen Keller addressed the International Convention at Cedar Point, Ohio on 30 June 1925 and charged Lions to be Knights to the Blind.

Lions also have a strong commitment to community hearing- and cancer-screening projects. In Perth, Western Australia, they have conducted hearing screening for over 30 years and provided seed funding for the Lions Ear and Hearing Institute established September 9 2001, a center of excellence in the diagnosis, management, and research of ear and hearing disorders. In Perth, Lions have also been instrumental in the establishment of the Lions Eye Institute. In Brisbane, Queensland the Lions Medical Research Foundation provides funding to a number of researchers. Prof. Ian Frazer's initial work, leading to the development of a HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, was funded by the Lions Medical Research Foundation.

Lions Clubs International has supported the work of the United Nations since that organization's inception in 1945, when it was one of the non-governmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California.

Lions Clubs International Foundation

Lions Clubs International Foundation is “Lions helping Lions serve the world.” Donations provide funding in the form of grants to financially assist Lions districts with large-scale humanitarian projects that are too expansive and costly for Lions to finance on their own. The Foundation aids Lions in making a greater impact in their local communities, as well as around the world. Through LCIF, Lions ease pain and suffering and bring healing and hope to people worldwide. Major initiatives of the foundation include the following:

  • SightFirst programs
    • Childhood Blindness Project
    • Lions Eye Health Program (LEHP, pronounced "leap")
    • River Blindness/Trachoma
    • SightFirst China Action
    • Sight for Kids
  • Other sight programs
    • Core 4 Preschool
    • Vision Screening
  • Disability programs
  • Youth Programs
    • Lions Quest

Membership

The Lions member is at the center of the organization. Membership is by invitation, though dedicated individuals are rarely turned away, and attendance at meetings is expected on a monthly or fortnightly basis. Since Lions Clubs International is a community-based organization with a well-developed hierarchy, members have the opportunity to advance from a local club to an office at the zone, district, national (also known as multiple district) and international levels.

Lions welcome any individual, regardless of age, gender, political or religious affiliation, or background who wants to make a difference, grow personally and professionally, and have a positive impact on local and international humanitarian issues.

Spread of Lionism

Lions Clubs around the world

The organization became truly international on 12 March 1920, when the first club in Canada was established in Windsor, Ontario. Lions Clubs have since spread across the globe. Listed below are the dates of entry for some countries and regions.

Extensions of the Lions family

In addition to adult Lions Clubs, the Lions family includes high school Leo Clubs and Campus Lions Clubs. These divisions are important parts of Lions Clubs International. They allow service-minded individuals the opportunity to build better communities at the high school and college or university level.

Leo Clubs

The Leo Club Program began in 1957, and has grown to include more than 5,500 clubs in more than 130 countries. There are approximately 140,000 Leos worldwide. The objective of the Leo Program is "to provide the youth of the world an opportunity for development and contribution, individually and collectively, as responsible members of the local, national, and international community." The name Leo originated as an acronym that stood for the motto of the clubs, "Leadership, Experience, Opportunity.

Campus Lions Clubs

Many Leos join a Campus Lions Club if they attend a university or college after high school graduation. There are more than 125 Campus Lions clubs in the world including nearly 2,500 members on college and university campuses in Australia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, United States, Venezuela, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Campus Lions Clubs empower their members to create meaningful change in their communities while developing leadership and professional skills.

International Convention

An international convention is held annually in cities across the globe for members to meet other Lions, elect the coming year's officers, and partake in the many activities planned. At the convention, Lions can participate in elections and parades, display and discuss fundraisers and service projects, and trade pins and other souvenirs. The first convention was held in 1917, the first year of the club’s existence, in Dallas, Texas. The 2006 convention was due to be held in New Orleans, but damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina meant that the convention had to be relocated to Boston.

Past conventions

Past convention locations include the following:

Lions Band

Many clubs sponsor a Lions Band to compete in the International Lions Parade at the International Convention. The parade champion for 25 years between 1951 and 2007 was the Lions Band from Mississippi, USA. Mississippi Lions All State Band has won the last 5 championships in a row.

Lions Clubs International in the news

In a survey released on July 5 2007, the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) was ranked best among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide. The survey asked 445 companies about their involvement with non-governmental organizations. From 34 global organizations, LCIF came in first for its execution of programs, demonstrated accountability, communications internally and externally, program adaptability to the surrounding community, and understanding the goals of its corporate supporters. LCIF ranked above organizations such as Rotary International, Habitat for Humanity, UNESCO and UNICEF.

The ratings were compiled by the Financial Times in association with the Dalberg Global Development Advisors and the United Nations Global Compact. The assessment was published in the Financial Times' Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy special report and highlights companies' growing interest in long-term partnerships to tackle an expanding range of social issues.

The list was released at a meeting of executives of NGOs and the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.

References

External links

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