JAPAN Foster Children Not Left Out Shichi-go-san means “seven-five-three” in Japan. A traditional rite of passage for children of that age, the Shichi-go-san celebration is held on Nov. 15. The Takasaki Lions Club has made sure for 17 years that foster children take part in the cultural staple. Lions arrange for children to be dressed in kimonos, tuxedos or dresses and then have their portraits taken. Last year 32 children from eight facilities in the Gunma Prefecture took part. Lion Hisao Yanai, who ran a bridal dress and makeup company, started the project. His wife, Lion Yayoi, currently heads the company. Another member, Kunio Totsuka, works at a banquet hall where the event is held. “The children’s attire was truly gorgeous,” according to a story in the Japanese LION. “The teachers from the facility and parents in attendance were moved to tears.” MULTIPLE DISTRICT 300 TAIWAN Blind Students Finish Triathlon Three grade school students in Multiple District 300 Taiwan completed a Lions club’s triathlon despite being blind. Co-sponsored by the Taichung Hsien Shan Cheng Lions Club, the triathlon consisted of a 5-kilometer cycling race, a 1.3-kilometer run and a swimming race that ranged from 50 meters to 15 meters, depending on the competitor’s age. The blind children completed the running and cycling on machines affixed to the ground. The blind athletes were Yang Tzu-ling, 12; Lin Ssu-chia, 10; and Liang Yu-han, 7. “Running and riding a bicycle feels like taking an airplane,” Lin told the China Times. More than 200 children took part in the Little Ironman Triathlon. UKRAINE Expatriates at Ease with Local Culture When in Ukraine, do as the Kozaks do. The Kyiv Lions Club, whose members include Americans, Spaniards, Germans and other expatriates working in Ukraine, hold a colorful Kozak Day. Kozak horsemen display their riding skills. Performers sing Ukrainian folk songs. Vendors sell crockery, clothing, metal work and salo (salted pig fat). “The Kozaks represent the soul of the Ukrainian nation with their horsemanship, slightly rowdy behavior and valor combined with the ability to ride forever on only a piece of salo,” says Terry Pickard, a member from England. The event raised $100,000 last year. “In our best year, our charitable events raised as much as $300,000. In 10 years, we’ve given in excess of $1 million to Ukrainian organizations,” says Pickard. Lions also have cleaned up beaches, painted and rehabbed orphanages and helped residents of “woefully inadequate nursing homes,” says Pickard. The different nationalities of the club, which includes many Ukrainians, have numbered as many as 14. Meetings are in English. FINLAND The Fairest of Them All at an Ancient Fair Author Aleksis Kivi, who wrote the first significant novel in Finnish in the 18th century, knew and appreciated the fair held at Anianpelto. He wrote a poem about it: “Music was played and horse carriages drawn. Stallions proudly neighed./It was then that I saw this beautiful maiden, the young daughter of the county.” The fair was defunct for many years before the Asikkala Lions Club started it up again in 1970. Thousands come each summer for traditional food, goods sold by vendors, Finnish pastimes and activities such as a sauna and a wood chopping contest and, a highlight, the Miss Anianneito competition. The theme for last year’s fair was Exercising to Health. Runners competed in a race. Blood pressure testing was available. Advocates for the local food movement bicycled to the fair to talk about their cause. Those in need were not forgotten: Lions donated the chopped wood for the competition to war veterans. FINLAND Popular Artist Aids Lions Maikki Parkkila is a popular watercolor painter in Finland whose career was launched in 2002 when she won a contest for a charity called “The Most Beautiful Christmas Card.” She is one of several artists in Finland who create Christmas cards for Lions clubs to sell. The proceeds benefit children. She titled a card she did for Lions (photo) “Sleigh Ride on Christmas Morning.”
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