Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
A few months ago a Lions recruitment team entered a bank in Centerville, Virginia. The assistant branch manager jumped out of his chair and fixed his gaze on one of the Lion’s lapels. “I know that pin,” said Syed Hussain. In 1987 Hussain was a young father in Pakistan. Lions Clubs International President Brian Stevenson of Canada was visiting Karachi. Hussain’s 2-year-old boy was desperately ill. He needed open heart surgery, not available in his own country. So, heart racing, Hussain wrote a letter to Stevenson and tracked him down. That started the wheels turning. The boy was flown to the United States and the surgery was successful. Today, he is in the United States with his family, studying to be a cardiologist. His father, the assistant bank manager, is helping to charter a club. So it goes with Lions. Stories abound among Lions of coincidences and connections across borders. Maybe the average club cannot match the drama of a boy whose life was saved through an encounter with a Lion. But one of the perks of being a Lion is finding instant comrades in yellow vests far from home. Membership has its privileges: Lions gain access to people and places closed to ordinary travelers. These experiences frequently involve more than just hospitality. Lions who travel often travel well, reaching out in service and friendship. Sun, Sand, Service On their latest cruise retirees Jack and Freda Morris enjoyed sumptuous food, saw historic sites and, oh yeah, delivered 600 pairs of eyeglasses to the needy in Panama. Members of the Loomis Lions Club in California, the Morrises combined pleasure with service. The couple worked with Lions in District 4-C5 and the Folsom Project for the Visually Impaired (inmates refurbishing eyeglasses) to hand over the eyeglasses in a ceremony on the dock in Cristobal. Holland America Line set up a white table cloth under a tent (it was the rainy season) and the ship’s captain, chaplain and hotel manager attended along with 15 Lions from Panama. “We were all there in our vests and pins. We looked like generals. There must have been a 1,000 people there [disembarking from the ship],” says Jack Morris. “ ‘OK,’ somebody said, ‘I give up. What are you Lions doing?’ I told him and the people applauded. It brought a tear to my eye.” At dinner passengers also were eager to learn more about the dockside event. “Everybody wanted to hear about this Lions thing. People said, ‘You gave up your day.’ Well, what did you do today? It was very rewarding what we did,” said Morris, who actually was given a guided tour of the city by Panama Lions. Morris learned of “a dire need” for eyeglasses in Panama through his role as district chairperson of international relationships. The glasses were not heavy; he and Freda were able to fit them in two boxes, taped together to form one piece of luggage. Morris is no stranger to foreign adventure. After working in intelligence for the California Attorney General, he moved to Brisbane and became the highest ranking, non-federal intelligence director in Australia. But any Lion taking a trip likely can duplicate what he and his Wife did, he says. “The captain of the ship said Holland America wants to be part of any Lions program such as this,” Morris says. “It was very inexpensive, just a great approach to delivering eyeglasses.” A Visit by a Dad Everyone in Gary appreciated Nils Christian Fossum, a high school exchange student from Norway. His demeanor was friendly. His heritage matched the Norwegian background of many in the small Minnesota farm community. His basketball skills greatly improved the high school squad. Then when his father came from Oslo to visit, Lions in Gary found another reason to like him. Per Fossum was a Lion. Fossum’s visit to a club meeting was why a family in India, previously living in a hut made from sticks, clay and cow manure and regularly overrun by snakes and scorpions, dwell in a solid concrete home with a kitchen and toilet. During his visit, Fossum chatted amiably about the weather, the old country and his club’s projects. Fossum’s club supported Nadhal, a tiny village of 158 near Numbia, India. Life is hard there. Families’ plots are too small to farm, so villagers earn about $1 per day working on big farms. Seasonal rains routinely destroy the rickety homes. The village’s well is contaminated; influenza, tuberculosis and diarrhea are common scourges. After they heard Fossum, the Lions of Gary didn’t need to be asked. They also recruited Lions in nearby Ada and Fertile to lend a hand to the Oslo Lions. So when June rolled around, the pancakes and sausages sold at Gary Days ended up partly funding a home in Nadhal. Then Edna Rude, wife of Gary Lion DeFloren and a regular visitor to Norway, hand delivered $1,500 to Oslo Lions. “We’re a wealthy farming community. It’s hard for us in a modern farming community to realize how needy people are,” says DeFloren Rude, a retired high school principal. “We thought our clubs can do our little part.” Have Vest, Will Serve A retired high school principal in Minnesota, George Davis and his wife, Cecilia, are frequent travelers. They hitch their camper to their pickup and hit the open road. “My neighbor jokes that we’re not home enough to quality for the homestead [exemption],” says Davis. They know what to pack–including George’s Lions vest and pins. A few years ago, on their fourth trip to Alaska, the Davises attended a bluegrass festival sponsored by the Anderson Clear Lions Club. The couple also lent a hand. George worked security from midnight to 2 a.m. In the morning, not to rest on their service laurels, both George and Cecilia (though she’s not a Lion) helped out at the pancake breakfast run by the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Lions. The Davises routinely look to bump into Lions while traveling. In fact, they stay at campgrounds run by clubs when they can find one. “They’re not easy to find. I try on the Internet,” says George, a member of the Brandon Lions Club. “We figure why not support people we know.” Before returning from Alaska last time, a Lion there gave Davis a list of names on the route home and said they could help them if they had any problems along the way. That got him thinking. He knew about the Good Sam Club in which volunteer Standby Sams can recommend a mechanic, restaurant or campground. Why not a Lions Helping Fellow Lions Club? He approached the district office but nothing came of his idea. But that won’t stop him from pitching in when on the road. “It’s just a lot of fun and you meet new people,” he says. Roots of Service After her brother died unexpectedly last year in India, Deepti Singh Suri traveled from her home in a Chicago suburb back to her native country. She spent time at an ashram to “get my sanity back,” she says. India was where she grew up, became a successful businesswoman and a committed Rotarian, and befriended and admired many Lions, one of whom established an orphanage. India also was where the inequality of girls was especially visible and poignant. When Suri returned to her home and her husband and two girls, she was ready to do something about the plight of girls. Shortly after her return a friend from Sunday school told her she was starting a Lions club. “It all came together,” says Suri. “Her first question to me was, ‘Will you become a member?’ Then she asked if I’d be president.” Chartered last September, the Flossmoor Roshni Lions Club is dedicated to helping girls who are orphans or otherwise are less privileged. The club already has arranged with an NGO in Himachel Pradesh, a state in India, to provide financial support for two girls so they can live with their extended families. Otherwise, they’d be sent to an orphanage and likely be poorly educated and fare poorly. “Boys are taken care of by their extended families if needed. Girls are given away to orphanages,” says Suri. Many of the club’s members work at South Suburban College near Chicago where Sangeeta Kumar, Suri’s friend, is a librarian. The online club is nearly all women of multiple ethnic groups. Two members, Kumar’s sister and a friend of hers, live in India. The plan is to find members worldwide to better further the club’s mission. The club will hold a fashion show both to raise funds and to showcase the work of local college students. A designer of fashion and jewelry, Suri says she’d like the club to form relationships among design students, corporate Travel Tales Though a Minnesotan visiting Alaska, Davis works the pancake breakfast run by the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Lions. Deepti Singh Suri (back row, far left) spent a month teaching these children of staff of an ashram in India “to think and plan to grow bigger than their small hamlet they lived in.” Buyers and owners of small businesses in India and other nations. The networking can help young people here and girls abroad. The trip to India triggered Suri’s volunteerism. But, ultimately, her own home fuels her altruism. “I have two daughters. I relate to girls being a woman,” she says. Twinning Travel Club twinning is not unusual, but Lions in Pennsylvania and Italy chose to formalize their relationship in person. Springfield Lions hosted Casoli Val Di Sangro Lions, who initiated the twinning via e-mail and have family in the Springfield area and on the East Coast they wanted to visit as well. So in December 2008, 27 Italian Lions and family flew to the United States and sat down with more than 80 Lions, Lionesses and Leos connected with the Springfield club. The Lions exchanged friendship banners and gifts. The Italian Lions received replicas of the Liberty Bell. The Springfield Lions received a hand-painted commemorative plate. The Casoli Lions ran a film about their region and the Springfield Lions showed a PowerPoint of their activities. More than just an ocean separated the two clubs. Chartered in 1948, the Springfield club has 90 members. The club is well-known in town for its sponsorship of an adult night school and the town’s Fourth of July celebration. Begun in 2007, Casoli has 30 members. The club has assisted the needy in Ethiopia and contributed to Campaign SightFirst II. The Italian Lions spoke enough English to keep the evening on track. The only hiccup was when the Springfield Lions attempted to give red carnations to the Italian women, who refused them. “We didn’t know that the color is a sign of back luck,” says Jim Harrington, a past district governor from the club. But warm feelings predominated. A Lion is a Lion, no matter country of origin. “Everybody had a great time. I think it was the fraternity of Lions that was the bond,” says Harrington. “They wanted us to reciprocate [the visit]. That’s on our list.” No Degree of Separation Mary Krogh knew as a Lion and then as a district governor she’d meet new people and enjoy new experiences. What she didn’t know was that Africa and Africans would loom so large. Her story is one of connections and coincidences, too. Krogh joined the East Hampton Village Lions Club in Connecticut in 1988. Seven years later her club agreed to co-host a Special Olympics delegation from Tanzania. Initially “a little leery” because she knew no Africans, her concerns quickly vanished. “The minute I met them I just fell in love with Africa and its culture,” she says. “I realized that they have very little material items. But the warmth and love they share with each other is unbelievable.” Krogh bonded with Adeline, the head of the delegation. She later visited her in Tanzania and they went on a safari. The two became “like sisters,” says Krogh. Adeline was able to stay in a lodge normally closed to Ugandans. “You showed me the United States and now you showed me my own country,” she told Krogh. A couple of years later Krogh began to make plans to return to Tanzania when she received a postcard. Adeline had died of AIDS. Flash forward to 2003 when Krogh was district governor. Luckily, her twinning governor happened to be from Uganda. Polly Karimari Ndyarugahi and Krogh bonded through e-mail and then at a luncheon for new district governors. He later visited her in Connecticut. The next year Krogh and her husband, Ted, a Lion, hosted his teen-age son, Jerome, as part of a Lions exChange program. Initially leery because he had never been around children with cancer, Jerome agreed to volunteer as a counselor at Camp Rising Sun. He liked it so much he entered a work exchange program at the camp’s parent camp. Jerome is now studying electrical engineering at Boise State University in Idaho. Krogh’s involvement with the Ndyarugahis did not end there. A friend of Krogh’s, Linda Howard, was traveling to Uganda, so Krogh had Ndyarugahi meet her. He brought along Lion Jane Irene Twinomujuni, who instantly bonded with Howard, who invited her to visit her back in the United States. (Twinomujuni’s husband, Lion Amos, incidentally, is a high-ranking judge in Uganda.) But before Twinomujuni’s trip to the international convention in Chicago in 2007 and then to Texas to see Howard, Howard died unexpectedly. So Ted and Mary Krogh hosted the three Ugandans (Ndyarugahi, his wife, Night, and Twinomujuni) on a whirlwind visit to the Connecticut area. The Ugandans took in a baseball game, went whale watching and saw the Kennedy compound. “I have seen other governors twin with others but their relationship mostly remains on paper,” Ndyarugahi told Krogh in an email. “Ours is more than a friendship. It is a family.” These days Krogh reflects back on the friends she’s made and the various Lions she’s met in Africa. Each year she chairs the Special Olympics Opening Eyes program in Connecticut. “I look forward to those two days in June,” she says. “I think I do it in memory of Adeline.”
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