No matter the nationality, age or gender, Lions share a deep desire to serve. We asked Lions from several parts of the world to share their story of service. Dean Žigon Club:Ankaran Istra Lions Club in Koper, Slovenia. Joined in 2009. Bio: Married, 40, with two children, Ela, 10, and Jan, 8. Works in sales department and heads a union at TELEKOM, the national telecommunication company. Lives a few miles from Italy in historic, scenic Koper, which borders the Adriatic. The city’s 12th-century Cathedral of the Assumption has one of the oldest bells in Slovenia. Why a Lion? Even before I became a Lion I was living the philosophy of Lions. I started a Christmas gifts project before I joined Lions. Every Christmas there is an obsession in the air, people looking for the right gift. People who I care about don’t need a new cap for their teapot or new socks. I went to a social center to find families in need. I got four letters to Santa and went to a store and bought gifts according to their modest wishes. I was able to make their parents proud on Christmas morning and make my kids understand what Christmas is really about. Lions’ activities: Every December I collect letters to Santa from socially disadvantaged kids and every club member gets one or two. What else? The Lions Olivetum–our Lions olive grove [done with other Lions clubs]. We planted the first olive grove in Slovenia. Profits from the sale of the olive oil will be for charity. We are planning a similar project: renting a salt field and making our own salt. Fitting in: All the members were happy with the Christmas project. That was a key factor in making me feel accepted by other members. They quickly became my good friends. … Only members that know each other well are able to join together in good service. Working with each other is the best way to make a stable and powerful organization. Karen Joy Bahatan-Umila Club: Baguio Everlasting Lions Club, chartered in 1994. The club’s 27 members live in Baguio City, the “summer capital” of the Philippines, nestled in the mountains more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The all women club focuses on helping youth through projects like Lions Quest and Sight for Teens. About: Bahatan-Umila, 31, is an English professor. She is married to Benny Umila, a lawyer, also a Lion. The couple met in college while involved in campus activities including the Leo club. They have an 8-year-old daughter, Nisha Anne. Bahatan-Umila grew up in Banaue, Ifugao, where famous, picturesque rice terraces are; she makes the six-hour trip home regularly to visit family. Starting Young: As a Leo in college, I used to tag along with the Lions to help during medical missions. I really enjoyed traveling to distribute relief goods and assisting doctors. These gratifying experiences made me realize that I could be of service to others and commit even more to Lionism; I became a full-fledged Lion in 2010. Ending an Epidemic: There has been a big increase in diabetes among Filipinos, primarily because of low awareness. Both of my parents are diabetic, and my aunt died a few years ago because of complications from diabetes. Our club is addressing this pressing need though diabetes screening, education and projects like our Lions Strides–Walk & Run for Diabetes. More than 250 people participated last year. Why a Lion: I get to help people, meet different people and inspire others to do the same. It has always been my passion to use my time to serve humanity. Service requires no age, gender, status nor race—it only requires time. Growth Potential:Aside from the fun, adventure and fulfillment, I enjoy the endless opportunities where I can develop my leadership skills, learn and showcase my abilities. Dr. Otto Jaime Montoya Tobar Club: San Salvador Decano Lions Club in El Salvador, chartered in 1942. The club’s 48 members hail from the country’s bustling capital city, the cultural and financial center of the country. The Basics: Montoya, 38, a general and laparoscopic surgeon, is married to Michelle Renee Calderón, an attorney. They have a son, Otto, 12. When not dividing his time between hospital emergency surgery and his private practice, Montoya can be found with his family, heading to the nearby beach whenever they have free time. Why a Lion: When I was younger I often volunteered, but later as a professional, I had always wanted to contribute in some way and help others. I was lucky to be invited to a Lions club for a medical talk led by Dr. Milton Salguero, who later sponsored me. I realized that the Lions’ ideals were closest to my beliefs about giving back. SightFirst Success: Thanks to our Lions’ hard work, we received an LCIF SightFirst grant a couple of years ago to treat retinopathy in premature babies, an illness that causes up to 35 percent of blindness in our country. We provided surgical equipment to a hospital including a photocoagulation laser and a surgical microscope. More than 100 children have already avoided blindness because of this project. Up Next: We’re devoted to the development of a low vision clinic so we can treat children who experience side effects after their surgeries. I’m so proud to be part of the team helping to fulfill this need and to be a part of the impact Lions are making on visual health in El Salvador. Club Camaraderie: My favorite part of being a Lion is the work! The work becomes easy when you do it among friends, and at my club, we’re all friends. Chamberlain Z. “Zama” Gebeda Club: Umtata Lions Club, Mthatha, Republic of South Africa; chartered in 1973 with a current membership of 24 Lions. The community is a city of about a million people surrounded by vast rural areas. Why be a Lion? My wife, Pat, and I were invited by friends and colleagues to join the club in 1998. We have never looked back. At our club, we always add a little fun or humor in whatever we do—meetings, fellowship, projects and serving! Through Lions, I have made lots of friends at District 410 D conferences and multiple district conventions. At Home: I’ve been happily married for 42 years and blessed with three children and four grandchildren, who all work and live in Johannesburg. I have two wonderful Kenyan sons-in-law. I retired in 2005 as a professor of education at the University of Transkei and have co-authored several educational books plus books of poetry in my home language of IsiXhosa. Service as a Lion: Our club loves to give out food parcels to cataract patients, the indigent and the sick. We give candy to hospitalized children. We love to plant trees at local institutions. One way we raise money is by holding a Wine and Cheese evening. My wife and I had the pleasure of hosting two exchange students from Finland last July. What joy! Other Interests: I serve on church committees and volunteer at the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and as a board member of the national organization. I believe in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. I love spending time with my family, traveling, reading, writing and sports. I have traveled far and wide and enjoyed all the pluses/minuses of the 14 countries I have set foot in. The highlands of Scotland are lovely to gaze at and Switzerland is beautiful. Closer to home, the wide desert landscapes of Egypt and Namibia are something to be admired, too.
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