Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt 2014-11-12 00:28:14
Edison Visionary Lions Club, New Jersey Age 46 | Management Consulting Company Owner When I was 17 in India, my friends started a new Leo club. I joined for fun because all of my friends were joining. We held the first eye surgery camp managed by Leos when I was 21. I had visited the village where I grew up, and a former teacher asked me why the Lions hadn’t held an eye camp there for a while. When the Lions couldn’t do it, the Leos took it on. We had 150 patients over three days. A patient at the camp was the mother of one of my elementary school teachers. After her surgery when they took the bandages off, I was right there. I watched her see her grandson for the first time. The moment was indescribable. Then she touched my feet—this is a sign of great respect in India and is very rare. Even today, when I think about it I get emotional. As an immigrant to the United States, I’m aware of the lack of cultural integration that can happen here. Many immigrants live among their own group and stay separated from the larger population. That can create fear and suspicion. In my district we lost about 200 residents on 9/11. I witnessed the suspicion that happened at that time toward people who look like me. People don’t know enough about other cultures, and if we integrate more, they’ll lose the fear. Lions can have a big impact with this. Before I joined there was one small club with eight Indian members in my district. We chartered a young professionals club, and about 50 Indians joined. My goal as district governor is for clubs to mirror the community more. I live in a very diverse area, and Lions should reflect that. I look at my 11-year-old son, Ojas, and his friends and I see the challenges they face due to the Internet and social media. They’re not interacting face to face enough. I’m trying to get them more involved in volunteering. Along with my wife, Lion Anu, my son has been to three LCI conventions. It’s great to see how passionate he’s become about Lions. He’s chartering a new Leo club at his middle school. I want him to have a moment like I did at that eye camp years ago.
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