NEW ZEALAND Comedian Makes a Spectacle of Herself Never underestimate the power of a celebrity to garner attention and get people to do what you want them to do. Comedy actress Su Pollard is popular in New Zealand for her British sitcoms “Hi-de-Hi!” and “You Rang, M’Lord?” She’s known for her flamboyant dresses and glasses as well as for her abrupt, startled, slightly off-kilter persona. Think of Carol Burnett in one of her wacky sketches. Pollard was in New Zealand to promote an upcoming tour of the musical “Annie,” and her agent shrewdly approached the Ferrymead Lions Club, which runs an eyeglass recycling center in Christchurch. She met with Lion Andy Blaikie, who brought along a bag of eyeglasses. “So I tipped them out on the table, and she started to play with them,” Blaikie recounted for the South Pacific LION. The photo taken by a newspaper photographer for Fairfax NZ, a media giant, proved to be pivotal. “Since the article, we have had a flood of glasses coming our way,” said Blaikie. Since 1987, Ferrymead Lions have recycled glasses for distribution in the Pacific Islands by the Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas. ZAMBIA No More Tossing and Turning Ndola Lions in Zambia wished sweet dreams for students with visual impairments when they donated 100 comfortable mattresses to a boarding school in Hillcrest. Jumbe Zulu, an 11th-grader, told the Lions, “We are grateful to the Lions club for this gesture as we can now say goodnight to uncomfortable nights.” Chartered in 1962, the Ndola Lions Club has 34 members. AUSTRALIA Taking to the Sea for Lessons to be Lived on Land Landlubber Sacha Clark, 18, took to life on the sea as a crew member on a tall ship like, well, a fish to water. Without hesitation, she climbed the soaring mast of the majestic STS Leeuwin II and unfurled the huge sail. “It was so awesome,” she described her exhilarating sailing stint to an Australian newspaper. For 30 years the Leeuwin Lions Club has sponsored youths for the weeklong sea adventure where they learn responsibility and boost their self-esteem. Some love sailing. Some are disadvantaged economically. Some are right in line with youths often helped by Lions: the STS Leeuwin II is the only tall ship in Australia to host youths with a physical, sensory or intellectual limitation that prevents them from being part of other mentorship sailing programs. Dr. John Williams, the charter president of the Leeuwin Lions Club, is a longtime close friend of Dr. Malcolm Hay, an orthopedic surgeon and avid sailor who gathered the funds needed to build the tall ship and launched the youth sailing program. More than 40,000 young people have participated. The Lions sponsor as many as three youths a year. “Many of our youths have shown an amazing change in attitude and personality,” says Williams. The club, incidentally, is not named after the ship but after the landmark Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westerly mainland point of Australia. But the ship does happen to have a striking Lioness on its bow. Digital LION The LION features Lions in Australia, the “most far-flung world sector of Lionism” (January 1967 LION). ITALY Guide Dog Center Opens Since 1959, Lions in Italy have trained guide dogs for the blind. More than 2,000 dogs have been placed. The future of the program was recently solidified when Lions built a new guide dog facility in Limbiate, located near Milan. The facility has room for 76 dogs. It includes a veterinarian office and four apartments for those with vision impairments to stay while learning to handle their dog. The facility is not only a training place but will function as an advocacy center for those who are visually impaired. Lions in Italy now are focused on promoting the dignity and rights of those with vision impairments. Digital LION Italy’s guide dog program provides “a new sense of freedom” (June 1985 LION). JAPAN Lions in Japan Get it Write As in the United States, teachers in Japan bemoan an unfortunate consequence of the ubiquity of smartphones and computers that shows up most obviously in the classroom: the decline in penmanship. The neatness and precision of students’ writing, often problematic even years ago, have taken a decided turn for the worse as students endlessly use their fingers punching keypads. Noogata Lions’ novel approach to bad penmanship centers on a traditional practice thousands of years old: calligraphy. For five years the club has sponsored a calligraphy competition at a community center in the city of 60,000. Last year 176 students from third to eighth grade wrote calligraphic letters on official calligraphic paper with large traditional ink brushes. The best work was on par with that of accomplished adults, according to the Japanese LION. A senior citizens group that practices calligraphy has helped the Lions with the competition, first staged in 2010 to mark the club’s 50th anniversary. The event was originally held only for younger students. Lions expanded it when students in junior high told them they missed practicing the ancient art. The competition is helping fuel a growing interest among youths in calligraphy. The high school calligraphy club displays its work at a local crowded shopping mall, where the art from the Lions’ event also can be found. The lasting visibility of the Lions’ project has pleased Lions, who sometimes find that their activities fall into a “pay and forget” rut. The colorful, complicated art leaves a solid impression. ENGLAND Reason to Smile At Last Rosie Sheaf, a dental nurse from England, traveled to small villages in Zimbabwe on a medical mission. Many people had never had dental care. “Every day without fail we saw children and adults whose teeth are literally rotting,” she says. Sheaf and the other dental professionals fixed dental problems, passed out toothbrushes and explained the fundamentals of oral health. “It was so rewarding to see the relief of our basic pain-relieving dental treatments,” she says. Dentaid, based in Salisbury, sponsored that mission and many others. Lions clubs throughout the United Kingdom have supported Dentaid since 2001. Lions collect and recondition dental equipment and pay for travel costs. Dentaid is active in 11 nations including Cambodia, Colombia, India, Nepal and Romania. Sheaf spoke to the Gillingham, Mere & Shaftesbury Lions Club upon her return to thank members for their support. Her trip was “humbling but hugely inspiring. Human beings can experience so much hardship but at the same time be so stoic and happy,” she told the Lions. FRANCE Diners Treated Like Kings To celebrate their club’s 60th anniversary Lions in France and supporters gathered in a 700-year-old castle. They walked the halls where Joan of Arc was blessed by the archbishop before departing with her army to defeat the English. They dined on a feast prepared by top chefs. They left knowing they helped cancer patients, those with vision impairments and young entrepreneurs. The Blois Doyen Lions Club held its benefit dinner at Blois Castle, a 564-room marvel that seven kings and 10 queens of France called home beginning with Louis XII in the 15th century. Local suppliers provided the meat, fish, vegetables, wine and chocolates including the renowned Sologne caviar. More than a dozen chefs volunteered in the kitchen. After watching a sound and light show and ascending the swooping main staircase, the 250 guests ate in the sumptuous Gaston d’Orléans wing. Thirty-nine students from a hospitality school served the diners. Lions raised 17,000 euros (US$19,000). Funds went to a cancer group, for audio books and to entrepreneurs, who accepted the interest-free loans to establish their businesses. NORWAY Clubs Hits Jackpot with Lottery Per Christian Lo and other members of his club approach people at crowded shopping malls and ask, “Have you registered your Grasrot?” Norsk Tipping, the popular national lottery, “tips” 5 percent of a wager to a player’s designated favorite charity. Yet more than half of lottery players have not registered for the Grasrotandelen, or “grassroots share.” The Lions have been able to persuade more than 3,000 lottery players to designate the Fredrikstadt Lions Club as their charity of choice. Astoundingly, the club receives about US$200,000 annually from Norsk Tipping, the government agency that runs the lottery. Only one other group receives more funds: the Vålerenga, an elite soccer team in Oslo. Norsk Tipping oversees a wide range of scratch cards, interactive video games accessed by smartphone or in kiosks and sports such as horse racing. “The Lions spend the money on good projects in their community, and they always tell the press. Then they get even more good will,” says Vibeke Aasland, editor of the LION in Norway. “I think Per really wants to beat Vålerenga, too.”
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