1 AFRICA SOUTH AFRICA YOUR GUIDE TO THE GREAT WORK WE’RE DOING AROUND THE WORLD Mountain Climb Becomes a Peak Experience Cancer stole her vision when she was 1, but Severine Renard of Belgium flew to South Africa on her own and set off with others to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa at nearly 20,000 feet. One of her guides was 57-yearold Lion Alec Collier, who held her hand, walked arm in arm with her or steadied her with the crook of his elbow. Collier fixed his gaze downward, telling Renard to step down or up and warning her of loose gravel, slippery boulders and lowhanging branches. “I noticed that most of the blind persons lifted their feet higher than the sighted persons to avoid tripping over obstacles,” says Collier, an architectural draftsman. “Severine was quite tiny but extremely fit. I was extremely impressed with her courage.” Lion Adrian Barnes guided Bryce Lindores, a blind Australian who won a bronze medal in cycling in the Beijing Paralympics. Barnes was struck by Lindores’ resolute, fearless independence and yet his complete openness toward others. “He was always asking questions and was honestly interested in what you had to say. That will stay with me forever– his absolute honesty and trust.” Their friendship blossomed despite a fierce sports rivalry. “We built up a good bond. You have to bear in mind that South Africa and Australia are bitter sporting rivals especially in rugby,” says Barnes, 48, a chief of fire and emergency services. The two Lions from South Africa were among a 24-person expedition that reached the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The group included seven blind climbers, the most ever to reach the summit together. The trek in 2009 was led by Stephen Hilton-Barber of Australia and his father, dauntless adventurer Geoff Hilton- Barber of South Africa, who once sailed solo from his country to Australia. The non-sighted climbers included those blind from birth and those who lost their sight later in life from accidents or illness. Lion Alec Collier lives in Durban, as does the elder Hilton-Barber. Neither Collier nor Barnes was an experienced climber. But the two Lions spent six days on the mountain guiding the vision-impaired climbers upward and living cheek-by-jowl with them. During the ascent, paired with different blind climbers five to seven hours each day, the Lions vigilantly warned of ruts and tangled brush, gently steered them around slippery moss-covered rocks, discreetly escorted them to a private place when nature called and described the stunning scenery. “Severine asked a lot of questions about the scenery, plants, animals and birds. I had a great time trying to describe what I was seeing,” says Collier. At camp, the guides tended to the blind climbers’ aches and blisters, helped them pack food and water and kept track of equipment. The guides had to take care of any and all contingencies. “We had to remove the toenail of one of the Australian blind climbers. We joked with him that he had kicked every rock off the mountain,” says Barnes. The blind climbers normally were self-sufficient. They used guide dogs or walking sticks at home and generally had families and jobs. They climbed mountains and traversed obstacles on a daily basis. But to climb Kilimanjaro was an altogether different challenge. They had to “step into the unknown, to give up their independence and rely on relative strangers for their daily needs,” says Collier. “Going on an expedition like this is daunting enough for a sighted person. It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage to say, yes, let’s do it.” On the second day of the climb the group watched as a climber from another group, suffering from altitude sickness, was evacuated to safety, a drama that reinforced the seriousness of their undertaking. Near the summit the trail was so narrow that the climbers walked single file along a pass with a steep drop off and the sky was so dark that even some of the blind climbers wore head lamps to help illuminate the path for the entire group. Reaching the summit was a thrilling achievement for the two Lions. But the friendship they forged with those they guided represented a new height in their personal development. “We interacted on a very personal level,” says Collier. “We were able to ask questions and discuss subjects which in our normal day-to-day lives we would have avoided for fear of embarrassing ourselves or the person we were trying to interact with. This very personal interaction gave me a much better understanding of blind people, the problems they face in everyday life and how they see themselves. “Like a lot of people, I have always been uncomfortable around people with disabilities. I did everything I could to avoid any situation in which I had to deal with them and I never really faced up to this shortcoming within myself. Sharing this time with them became extremely rewarding for me. I lost my discomfort around people with disabilities. I lost my fear of embarrassing myself or offending them. I learned how to treat them as individuals who existed outside of their blindness. I am now prouder of the person I have become.” Barnes adds, “I think we were both a little uncomfortable around people with disabilities. After this experience I realize that people with disabilities are ‘normal’ human beings with a great attitude and we can all learn from them.” The blind climbers spent three months in training with the Lions and the other guides. Collier needed to train, as well. “I was unfit, overweight and 55 years old,” he says. So he channeled his inner Rocky, South African-style. Each morning he awoke at 4:30 to climb hills, walk stairs, lift concrete boxes, dig holes, chop down trees and do countless situps and squats. “I realized that I could not allow myself to fail. If I failed the person I was guiding would not be able to summit,” says Collier. “I found a new mental and physical strength I did not know I had in me.” Lions of District 410 C supported the climb, which took a team of 50 porters and two cooks as well as the guides. The climb benefited the Prevent Blindness Association in Australia and Horizon Farm Trust in South Africa. The ascent gave Collier a new impetus to his life. He now takes overnight mountain treks. He also became a trustee at a home for mentally challenged adults, whom he escorts on climbs. Once he led a quadriplegic woman and a paraplegic woman, on the back of a special bike, to the summit of a mountain pass. Joining him on these treks have been more than 150 people, most of them Lions, who, too, want to push their boundaries and discover new ways of thinking, acting and relating. 2 OCEANIA AUSTRALIA Parent Blitzed With Kindness Backyard Blitz is a popular TV show in Australia, and what Lions did for a family over a weekend was compared to that show by local media. Nearly 30 Lions and friends descended on a home headed by a single parent and renovated it while the father and his three children spent the weekend at a beach resort, courtesy of the Lions. Lions painted rooms, hung curtains and even carved out a secure area under the house where the father could safely store his tools. The father has two daughters and an autistic son. Members of the Rockhampton, Rockhampton Fitzroy and Gracemere clubs did the work. Officials of the Family and Early Childhood Services agency had asked Lions to provide financial assistance to the family. Instead, Lions put in nearly 200 hours of volunteer labor. When the family returned, “they were simply overwhelmed, overjoyed, blown away,” says Noel Baxter, who organized the service day. “In their words, ‘Lions are gods.’ What can we do to repay them?” No payment was necessary. Instead, Lions planned to return to the home later to add a kitchen and put in a new floor. 2 EUROPE SWITZERLAND Bread Promotion Not Stale Baking and selling Grittibänzen (“sweet Santa bread”) is nothing new for Swiss Lions. But last year a club advertised its product on YouTube. The Bachtel Lions Club made a three-minute video at the Schneider Quer Bakery in Rüti. Dressed in white baker’s garb, four Lions kneaded, formed and baked Grittbänzen. President Andreas Haffter spoke briefly on the mission of Lions Clubs International. The club didn’t have to pay a production company to produce its professional video. Lion René Westermann, 43, is the CEO of fairMeetings AG, an event and trade show planning company that includes WebCom TV. Westermann’s crew provided equipment and guided the Lions through the undertaking. Lions e-mailed a link of the video to family members and friends, and the film got more than 400 hits. Proceeds went to SightFirst. Monuments, Floods and Weddings: Korean Lions Step Up as Needed Korean Lions will host tens of thousands of Lions worldwide at the 95th International Convention in June in Busan. Like Lions elsewhere, Korean Lions’ service runs the gamut. Osoo Lions in District 356 C (lower left) shovel a trench to help rebuild a flooded area. They also distributed supplies and food to flood victims. Yungyang Lions in District 356 E (lower right) mow the lawn at a national monument. Demonstrating that they love service, Lions in the Gunsan area in District 356 C (top) hosted a marriage ceremony for 10 intercultural couples.
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