Facebook Friends Unite for Syrian Refugees NORWAY–Einar got up from his sofa. Einar Lyngar, a Lion in Norway, rose to his feet and grabbed his iPad after watching a disturbing TV news report on a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. Children in summer clothes shivered in the snow in the mountainous camp. Some were barefoot. Lyngar was even more distressed because this was just four days before Christmas last year. “In Norway we know what cold and snow is,” says Lyngar, a journalist. Lyngar immediately contacted Lions friends in Lebanon he knew through Facebook. Thirty seconds later came the first response from Ghassan Kabbara, an architect who proudly displays a large Lions flag in his living room. “I saw the shocking report, too. We have to do something, Einar,” he wrote. Two minutes later Kabbara had reached District Governor Wajih Akkari, who often posts more than a dozen times daily on Facebook. “Einar, I have talked to him. He agreed we need to act,” Kabbara told Lyngar. Lyngar contacted the Norwegian Lions’ disaster committee, which kicked in 100,000 krone (US$16,000). Then more traditional technology produced other donations. After Lyngar and Lebanon Lions made plans, Lyngar promptly posted them on Facebook. A Norwegian journalist saw the postings and interviewed him on the radio two days later. Donations poured in. Just days after he arose from his sofa Lyngar was meeting Kabbara at the airport in Beirut. Now all he and three Lions in Lebanon had to do was drive through a dangerous area in which four soldiers had been killed two days earlier by terrorists. The Lions’ caravan, which consisted of a truck and a jeep loaded with goods, drove past a series of checkpoints, waved through by surprisingly amiable soldiers without delay each time. Lyngar found out later that fellow passenger Marwa Akkari, the wife of District Governor Wajih, works for the prime minister. The Arsal camp held nearly 100,000 bedraggled Syrian refugees. The Lions were shocked by the rough conditions. Many refugees lived in unheated tents. They lacked basics such as toilet paper and soap. Besides the United Nations, the Lions were the first foreign NGO to come to Arsal. The refugees crowded around the Lions. Someone carried to them a 4-year-old barefoot girl whose ankle was an ugly purple. “I was afraid of frostbite and amputation,” says Lyngar. He found a pair of lined winter shoes that fit her. “Marwa helped her get it on. We both got tears in our eyes,” he says. The Lions distributed clothes and shoes. Norwegians had donated 90 pounds of children’s clothes, and Lebanese Lions had gathered clothes for thousands of people. Also, a business sold to Lions at a low price heaps of chocolates and cookies. Boys stood patiently waiting for chocolates. But they soon bolted that line. “They understood I had warm woolen socks, so they came running to me,” says Lyngar. Lyngar later coordinated the delivery of books and school supplies to the camp; some of the children had not attended school for two years. In June a school opened for 1,000 children in Arsal. Another school made possible by Lions opened a few weeks later in the Akkar refugee camp. The speed of the aid matched the desperation of the need, says Lyngar. “All of it went very fast. Clubs in Norway [and Lions in Lebanon] are quick to react,” he says. A Historic Call to Arms Memorialized by Aussies AUSTRALIA–Douglas Diggs is spearheading a Lions’ campaign to erect a statue in Gilgandra honoring residents of his small country town who served in World War I. The project is close to home for him. His grandfather, Robert Charles Diggs, was fatally wounded in France in September 1918. Diggs, the charter president, is one of many members of the Gilgandra Lions whose ancestors served or died in the Great War. Despite a population of less than 3,000, Gilgandra was a stronghold of patriotism, military service, and ultimately, the supreme sacrifice. Some 390 young men from the area enlisted, and 70 were killed and 150 were wounded. Gilgandra actually was a driving force behind Australia eventually mounting the largest volunteer army during the war. After the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915, recruitment plummeted. Then two brothers from Gilgandra, William and Richard Hitchen, gathered a group of men and marched 320 miles to Sydney to join the army. The Cooee March delivered 263 recruits to the army and inspired 15 other such marches. The bronze statue envisioned by Lions will depict a World War I digger (soldier) calling his compatriots to arms. The club has raised $26,000 of the $70,000 needed. Lions have asked donors to give “a dollar for a digger.” The plan is to unveil the statue on ANZAC Day, the day of remembrance for Australian soldiers, which is April 25 in 2015. Most of the Australian soldiers in the war traced their heritage to the British Isles. After the war, an Anglican congregation in Bournmouth, England, decided to make a gift to the “town in the Empire with the most outstanding church and war service.” The church underwrote the construction of St. Ambrose Church in Gilgandra, which still stands. Among the Lions who worship there is Peter Hall, secretary. In the same French hamlet where the elder Diggs died, Arthur Hall, Peter’s uncle, fought valiantly and later received the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest award for valor. Pipe Down? Not in England ENGLAND–They tossed the caber, putted the stone and, of course, listened to the high-pitched shrill of bagpipe bands. Harpenden Lions in England staged a festive Highland Gathering to celebrate Scottish culture. None of 29 club members are Scottish. But they realize Gatherings are popular. Nearly 8,000 people came to enjoy Scottish music and sports. The event raised 13,000 pounds (US$21,000) for Parkinson’s UK and other charities. Six kilted pipe bands played. Hulking men tossed the caber, a long tapered pole. Athletes also competed in the stone put, similar to the shot put, and the weight over the bar, which involves throwing with one hand a 56-pound weight with an attached handle over a bar. These sports feats may not lead to Olympics glory, but they result in “a great fun day out for local people,” says Andrew Godden, president. Sick Youth’s Dream Comes True SLOVENIA–The FC Barcelona football team enthralled Lukas, a teenager in Slovenia. He loved everything about them: their attacking style, their colorful uniforms, their iconic stadium and, especially, their charismatic star, Lionel Messi, an Argentinean. So as he battled a dire illness, his father, a Lion, contacted French Lions, who worked with Barcelona Gaudi Lions to arrange for a trip to see a match. The popular team receives thousands of similar requests each year, but Lukas was able to travel to Spain and watch a game at Camp Nou, the team’s stadium, in choice seats. The Barcelona Lions said the whole experience proves that while soccer clubs inspire partisan loyalties Lions clubs personify “a big world family.” French 'Practice Humanism' FRANCE–The Book Room, a celebration of literature and promotion of literacy, draws 190,000 visitors each year in France. Lions clubs were prominent at the 2013 event, bringing a dozen winners of Lions districts’ literature prizes, displaying Braille books and other reading tools for the blind and presenting a slide show on Lions’ projects. “To be a Lion is to practice humanism in a global sense,” Marie-Francoise Legat, head of the Lions’ national committee for humanism, said at the event. “Our presence here tonight shows our commitment, our role and objectives in terms of literacy. Reading is a way to acquire knowledge and culture, which are paths to freedom.” French Lions say their involvement in the Book Room affirms their support of the literacy campaign of 2012-13 International President Wa
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