AUSTRALIA Teenager Comes Out Swinging Aidan Barry, 17, has golfed long enough and has reached a certain level of expertise that he has a handicap. It’s his other handicaps that distinguish him from the average golfer. Aidan suffers from vision and hearing problems. He has a lung condition that he describes as “asthma-like.” His arms are only a few inches long. His medical ordeal began when he had open heart surgery two weeks after he was born, the first of six heart operations. He took up golf when he was 7. He plays as part of the Disability Recreation and Sport South Australia, of which his mother, Bernadette, is a board member. The family lives in Marion, a suburb of Adelaide, Australia’s fifth-largest city. Adelaide Lions admire his pluck. Using computer game terminology, he says, “Having a physical disability is like playing life in Hard Mode.” Aidan Barry golfs despite arms six inches long. AUSTRIA Austrians Mimic New York Event Celebrating Lions Day at the United Nations, Lions in Austria held their own version of the day at the Parliament Building in Vienna. Lion Karlheinz Kopf, president of the Austrian National Council (one of the two houses in the Austrian Parliament), hosted the event. Ambassadors, U.N. officials and Lions such as Kopf and Past International Director Ernst Musil talked about the longstanding relationship between the United Nations and Lions and the importance of nonprofit organizations in alleviating social ills. The keynoter was Prelate Mag. Fürnsinn, abbot of the Herzogenburg Monastery. Classical musicians played songs by Mozart, Bach and Handel. The Peace Poster Contest finalists from the western, central and eastern districts of Austria were introduced to the crowd of 200. Held in early spring in New York, Lions Day at the United Nations is a 37-year tradition. ENGLAND Lions Target Dementia Santa brought the gift of memory—or at least care and support for those with dementia. For nine nights before Christmas Santa took to the streets with Mildenhall & District Lions in southeast England to collect funds for the Forget-Me-Not Campaign of West Suffolk Hospital. Nary a Scrooge was found. The Santa Sleigh raised 3,751 euros (US$4,200) to raise awareness of dementia and provide care for patients. For Eric and Pat Nixon, longtime members of the Cosham Lions, dementia has hit home. Eric, 87, who served in the RAF for 43 years, has Alzheimer’s. Pat, a retired special education teacher, speaks at Lions meetings about becoming a “Dementia Friend.” The nonprofit encourages people to stay in touch with people with dementia, to be patient with them and to wear a badge publicizing Dementia Friends. “I don’t think people understand what dementia is and what happens,” Pat told the Portsmouth News. FINLAND Lion Carves Out His Niche Finns joke that cold weather for other Europeans means their cars don’t start while Finns are still driving with the tops down on their convertibles. Lion Veijo Oinonen is one Finn in particular for whom winter is a pleasure: he’s won 18 ice sculpting championships. A member of the Kuusankoski Lions Club since 2005, Oinonen has taken home gold medals in the Finnish championships and earned medals in foreign competitions such as in Sapporo, Japan. The competitions are for teams. “You have to have one leader who has the main idea and who can manage the team,” says Oinonen. “At the national level the time is restricted, so it definitely takes teamwork with good leadership.” Ice sculpting is a ticket into the larger world of ice and winter festivals. In Harbin, China, an entire town is constructed from ice. “Some of the buildings are very tall, up to 30 meters [98 feet] and with flashing LED lights. It’s an unbelievable experience,” says Oinonen, who spends part of the winter in Lapland in Northern Finland where weeks go by without daylight. His interests made him a good fit for Lions, he says. “I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in sports organizations, and maybe that was the reason I wanted to join,” he says. “We work together in my club and share responsibilities.” JAPAN Snow Festival Brightens the Season It snows almost constantly from November to March in Otaru, a port city. The sun rarely shines. In February, the city thumbs its nose at the wintry weather with a radiant Snow Lantern Festival. The city glitters with paths lined with small snow huts lit by candles, fields of snow sculptures, and, running adjacent to the canal that is central to the city, rows of small snow statues holding candles. The canal itself is filled with floating glass spheres made bright by candles. The effect is cinematic, otherworldly, life-affirming in the face of a long, dreary winter. The Otaru Lions have run the festival for 13 years. It coincides with the nearby Sapporo Snow Festival, so travelers can visit both events. Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, and its more famous snow festival features massive snow sculptures made by artists. Residents in Otaru make the snow art. It’s a more approachable festival, exemplified by the conscious effort last year to create snow objects close to the ground, making them accessible to children. The candles in the snow huts cast a warm, orange glow over the snow. Lions divide into teams to tend to the candles around the clock to keep them lit. The Lions have their own snow pavilion with snowmen of various shapes and sizes. Permanently displayed there is a beloved bronze statue of a flute-playing boy. The festival is not a fundraiser. “To the Otaru Lions, this service activity is about good, old–fashioned volunteer work, not cash donations,” according to the Japanese LION. The nine-day festival drew 498,000 people last year. INDIA Schoolchildren Now Sail to School Shikha Kumari’s school stands across the Durgawati River, 115 feet wide and 50 feet deep. For months the 13-year-old girl did not attend school in the Kaimur District in eastern India: she cannot swim and the nearest bridge is nearly three miles away. Nearly 100 other students took the plunge day after day. Boys typically placed their school clothes and books in plastic bags in an urn before swimming across. Not able to change clothes on the river bank, girls had to wait until they reached school before getting out of their wet clothes. The river became especially perilous during the monsoon season when the water level rose. At least seven students have drowned. Today a boat safely ferries 25 students at a time across the river. Some two dozen Lions from Multiple District 322 personally paid for the boat. “It was a gesture to show how we have learned fellowship and the spirit of Lionism,” says Sanjay Awasthi of the Patna Takshila Lions Club. The Lions’ largess was extended to the community. Elderly village women also use the boat to cross the river. GERMANY Quick Response After Nepal Earthquake German Lions responded almost immediately to the devastating earthquake last April in Nepal. Within just four days of the disaster, German Lions donated more than 100,000 euros (US$112,000) for relief. German Lions’ nonprofit partner, Help, sent a six-person rescue team to search for survivors and recover bodies. The earthquake killed more than 9,000 people, injured more than 23,000 and left nearly 3 million without a home. Among the dead was Dr. Matthias Kuhle, a Göttingen professor with his students on an excursion. A rockslide killed him. German Lions also enabled Help to use its creative disaster response—a “cash for work” method. Residents are paid to assist with relief and reconstruction, providing a boost to the damaged economy. As with other disasters, German Lions also sent pallets full of PAULS—portable aqua units for lifesaving—to purify contaminated water.
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