Pamela Mohr 2015-08-12 23:40:17
LIONS AND THE UNITED NATIONS: OUR PARTNERSHIP SERVES THE WORLD “The United Nations isn’t just about politics and peacekeeping,” points out Al Brandel, 2008-2009 international president, now the association’s representative to the United Nations and the chairperson of Lions Day with the United Nations. “The U.N. is about helping people and humanitarianism—the same thing we do every day as Lions.” Seeing more than 500 Lions from 37 countries participating in the annual prestigious daylong March event, the 37th and his first as chairperson, was a vivid illustration to him exactly why the bond between the United Nations and Lions has been unbreakable for 70 years. “I saw for myself how well everyone mixed with each other. Seeing Lions meeting new people and talking so easily, I realized why this partnership with the United Nations works so well,” Brandel says. “It was like a mini-U.N. that day. Lions are all so different and from so many different parts of the world, but we still work together for the same thing. We share the same values. We work for the health, safety and well-being of people around the world.” From a partnership that began in 1945 in San Francisco when Melvin Jones and other Lion leaders helped design the non-governmental organization (NGO) charter for the United Nations, the two organizations remain steadfast allies, particularly when it comes to challenges facing children. “We must assume that every world citizen desires world peace and will do something about it,” said D. A. Skeen, international president that year. Peace still eludes the world, but Lions are continuing their efforts to protect the planet’s people in need. That bond forged decades ago was strengthened even further in 2008 when the association signed the United Nations Global Compact to help fulfill the U.N. Millennium Goals. The Millennium Goals are: eradicating extreme hunger and poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other terrible diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability and promoting global partnerships for health. Lions, in fact, have worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) for 30 years to improve the health and lives of millions. Since 1990 when SightFirst was established as an official Lions program, more than US$275 million has been awarded to 1,115 extensive projects in 102 countries. These grants have been for disease control, eye health and saving sight, as well as for training resources. In Sri Lanka, Dr. Sarath Samarage, a Panadura Lion since 1983 and a WHO national consultant, says WHO is helping to fund the Lions’ Promoting Healthy Lifestyles campaign. Clubs are distributing educational materials in three languages to reduce diabetes and other ailments that can be eliminated or lessened by healthier living. The project also includes workshops and screenings, and encourages a more active lifestyle for children and adults for good health. “We support WHO and WHO supports us. Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases is a top priority for Lions and WHO. Lions in Sri Lanka work very closely with U.N. agencies,” he says. Lions are officially partnered with the Measles & Rubella Initiative, a joint effort of WHO, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI Alliance, Lions are helping vaccinate children worldwide to save lives. Reducing child mortality, the fourth critical component of the U.N.’s Millennium Goals, is the aim of this comprehensive campaign. It’s also a cornerstone of the Lions’ Centennial Challenge. Lions worldwide are raising $30 million to vaccinate 200 million children by 2017. Already, immunizations have saved the lives of more than 14 million children from dying of measles and its complications since 2000. In 1996, LCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF that focuses on projects aiding the world’s children in need from providing Vitamin A doses to promoting global education. 2014-15 President Joe Preston once said, “This is where Lions shine. In different ways and in many different nations, Lions are making progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals.” Norwegian Lions united with Lions in Lebanon to help refugees in Syria. Lions have built schools in remote villages in Afghanistan where children, girls especially, had no opportunity to learn because it was forbidden by the Taliban. Leos and Lions in Hawaii delivered loads of socks and schools supplies to Afghan girls in an effort to keep them warm while they try to learn in unheated schools in the heart of winter. Japanese Lions have completed more than 36 education-related projects in Cambodia. Entire schools were built. Lions give an annual donation to UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box program. In 2015, LCIF presented a check for $35,000 to Liza Barrie, UNICEF’s chief of Civil Society Partnerships. “Lions are helping children learn, no matter where they are. Every child has a right to education,” Barrie says. She describes the school-in-a-box program as a “simple idea born of necessity.” Each emergency box of school supplies can be used for one teacher and up to 40 students when a crisis prevents them from attending school. “Lions have helped School-in-a-Box kits be shipped to virtually every part of the globe. These metal cartons help the youngest survivors of conflict and disaster. They represent one step toward reclaiming their childhood,” Barrie points out. The boxes, each valued at a little more than $200, do much more than simply helping displaced children continue their education. “Being in a school setting helps children recover from the emotional and psychological trauma of war and natural disaster. This Lions-UNICEF partnership has benefited hundreds of thousands of children in 20 years,” Barrie says. More than 17.5 million children have been helped by Lions, who last year invested 6.3 million service hours to promote reading skills in the United States and other countries. Lions Quest is now part of the U.N.’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) drug prevention and education program. A recent $100,000 LCIF grant was awarded to begin the Skills for Life curriculum in Serbia. Thus far, LCIF is the first private, NGO to participate in UNODC’s drug prevention program, which is expected to be primarily funded by the member nations of the U.N. Three Lions Quest workshops have been conducted so far and two more are scheduled to train 60 educators. They, in turn, will share the program with more than 800 students in nine schools in the Belgrade area. “We’re hoping to work with the European Union to fund Lions Quest in other countries,” says Brandel. “UNODC has already identified five other countries where the program could be expanded. As a former police detective, I worked with kids who had problems with drugs. Now instead of reading them their rights, I’m able to say, ‘We’re here and we’re able to help you.’ I want to reach more kids all over the world to help them make better life decisions. “I’m sure we’ll be continuing to expand our partnership with the U.N. to work globally and locally with one another because we have so many common interests. It’s all about partnerships. Both LCI and the United Nations share the goal of improving conditions for those in need. We face the same challenges. We both want to promote international understanding and provide humanitarian service. Our interaction with the U.N. means that we collaborate and save lives with our different initiatives. It’s exponential. It just keeps growing. By working with the U.N., we have something to build on with our Lions projects. Together, we make a great team.” Digital LION Watch a video about how Lions worldwide are supporting the U.N.’s Millennium Goals. Lions support the newly-created United Nations in the hopes of finding lasting world peace (January 1946 LION).
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