JAPAN Blind Children Enjoy Animals Bending low, the blind children put their ears close to the chicks to better hear their chirping. They touched the shell of the tortoise, surprised at its cold hardness. They smiled in wonder when they heard the high-pitched meows of the cats. The visit of a mobile petting zoo to the Chiba Prefecture School for the Blind was a day of discovery and delight. “The kids really look forward to this event every year,” says Assistant Principal Kazutoshi Noshiro. “A lot of them are shy at first—they never touched an animal before. “It’s such a precious experience for them. I always try to encourage them to be brave and touch because that direct contact with another living thing, it’s so important to the psyche.” The Yotsukaido Lions Club has sponsored a special day for the school, the only one of its kind in Chiba, for 20 years. It evolved from a potato digging event and then a peanut digging event before becoming what it is today. The activity was held in the schoolyard. The children wandered among geese, chicks, miniature dachshunds, cats, goats, marmots, ponies, rabbits and turtles. Being around the animals allowed the children to compare what they knew with what they experienced. A song they know has the lyrics: “nobody walks as slow as you, Tortoise.” But one young girl discovered otherwise: the tortoise “can move fast,” she observed. The line to ride the ponies was long. The next day many of the children, asked to draw what they experienced, chose to depict a pony. Interacting with the animals was highly beneficial to the students, says Noshiro. “Because of their visual impairments, the sensation of touch is so important for these children’s development,” he says. “It’s a wonderful experience that lets them understand the shapes and warmth of other living beings.” A child from the Chiba Prefecture School for the Blind rides a pony. AUSTRALIA It’s the Best of Times for Dickens’ Descendant The Bookmart run by the Glenside Lions Club is regarded as the best used book shop in South Australia. It has a good back story, too: a volunteer is a descendent of Charles Dickens. Jacquie Holdich volunteers because she’s a big reader and wants to serve her community. But the rare and out-of-print books on Dickens she’s discovered in unpacking boxes of donated books have turned her into somewhat of a Dickens scholar and transformed her into a sought-after speaker. Jacqui Holdich’s understanding about her ancestor, Charles Dickens, has grown since she started volunteering at the Lions’ Bookmart. Holdich is a first cousin of Dickens four times removed. They share a grandfather, Charles Barrow, whose daughter, Elizabeth, married Dickens’ father. Growing up, Holdich knew she was related to the writer, but last year she traced her exact connection through Ancestry.com. “I was excited and told all my friends at the Bookmart,” she says. “Not everyone has a relative buried in Westminster Abbey.” Holdich has been a reader of Dickens but now is diving into his complete collection of novels, which she owns. Her interest in the author grew even greater when she stumbled across a donation of “A Tale of Two Brothers: Charles Dickens’s Sons in Australia.” Holdich then wrote a six-part newspaper story on Edward Dickens’ life in Australia, and since then has been invited to speak at an international conference on Dickens in Sydney and before a gathering of teachers and librarians in Adelaide. “This is all a new development in my life,” she says. Staffed by Lions and volunteers, the Bookmart is located next to a scenic park and creek. It raises more than AUS$100,000 (US$73,500) annually. Holdich works in the extensive children’s section. “It’s pleasing to know so many local charities are reaping the benefits,” she says of the store’s success. BRAZIL Primer Book Doesn’t Go Out of Style In 1963, devoted Lion Áureo Rodrigues, worried that fellow members in Brazil didn’t understand what Lions were all about, published a 45-page, pocket-size primer on Lions Clubs. His idea had staying power. Last year the 37th edition of “Smart Lions” was published. The current edition has 264 pages, compared to the 45 pages of the original, and the material, including information on the Lions’ centennial, is updated, of course. But otherwise the book, written in Portuguese, has been remarkably unchanged. It’s still pocket-sized, still mostly in a question- and-answer format and still explains the basics of membership such as Lions’ history and protocol, the requirements for a Melvin Jones Fellowship and tips for better meetings. The book also has stayed in the family. Rodrigues, who served as an international director from 1965-67, died in 2014. But his daughter, Denise Rodrigues, the editor of the Portuguese LION in Brazil, now oversees its publication. Her older sister helped her father prepare the first edition when she was just 8. An estimated 70,000 books have been sold in Brazil and Portugal through the years. “I don’t think my sister or my father would have realized it would have been such a success,” says Rodrigues. The updated material includes digital age advice such as creating a password on MyLCI and centennial matters including the centennial service challenge. But her father’s goal to further service remains at the heart of the book. “Take your little book and serve without fear, with an open heart,” Denise Rodrigues writes in the latest edition. “If you have any questions, consult the book. That is how my father became ‘the Forever Smart Lion.’” ESTONIA Lions Right at Home at Zoo Lions went to the zoo to mark the centennial. Nearly 100 Lions from Estonia spent a day of service at Tallinn Zoo, the nation’s only zoo, to celebrate the upcoming anniversary of Lions Clubs International. They raked the grounds, mended and painted fences, and after animals were whisked away temporarily, even cleaned cages. Lions make picnic benches at Tallinn Zoo. Lions from 12 clubs also erected eight picnic benches, each marked with a club name. After their work was done, they enjoyed pancakes they made for themselves on electric stoves. The zoo’s collection includes a snow leopard, a Siberian tiger, and, yes, an Asiatic lion. INDIA Hundreds Receive Limbs Many of the Indians lost a limb in a road accident. Others suffered that fate after a work injury. Whatever the cause, Parbhani Lions helped 210 patients, young and old, receive prosthetic limbs at a camp. A well-known charitable group in India, Sadhu Vaswani Mission provided the doctors and specialists to do the fittings. Lions organized the camp, publicizing it, transporting the patients there and back and providing food. Lions held two camps: the first for patients to be examined and measured and the second for the fittings. Afterward, the patients expressed their gratitude to Lions. “I was totally helpless,” an older man told a Lion. “Now I can do my work and help my family.” Lions organized the camps to fit the prostheses. SCOTLAND No Record, But the Deep-fried Chocolate Was Tasty In America it’s how many hot dogs you can devour in one sitting on Coney Island. In Scotland, in a twist on food gorging, villagers in small seaside Stonehaven munched on deep-fried chocolate bars and washed them down with an iconic Scottish soft drink. The contest was not how many bars one person could eat but how many people would simultaneously indulge in the gluttony. Fifty-three people took part, and some decided to help themselves to a few extra. “I ate three myself,” says Lion Mike Hopkins. “’They’re quite easy to eat. They’re soft, and they melt in your mouth after they’ve been cooked in batter.” The Stonehaven & District Lions Club organized the eating stunt as part of its annual Feein’ Market, a community festival with entertainment, food and stall after stall of goods for sale such as crafts, clothes, jewelry and books. The Mars nutty chocolate bar is a longtime favorite at the Carron Restaurant in town, and the drink consumed was Irn Bru, wryly known as “Scotland’s other national drink.” Deep-fried chocolate and a Scottish soft drink make for happy festivalgoers. The intent of the Lions was to set a world record with their “fancy piece and a bru” endeavor. But Guinness World Records rejected the bid. “We were a bit cheesed off, especially when one of the records is someone watching TV for 94 hours,” Hopkins vented to a local newspaper. “We were told our record is not a skill, and I don’t really see how watching TV is a skill.” The Feein’ Market dates back hundreds of years to when farmers converged on the city center to offer their labor and skills—a kind of mobile job center. The modern market began in 1973, and Lions took it over 16 years ago. The eating spectacle drew a crowd of more than 400 people. “The atmosphere was really good. We had a great day,” says Hopkins. ISRAEL Contest for Seniors Focuses on Peace Peace was the theme. A blank canvas was the challenge. The competitors were seniors, several of them blind. Israeli Lions sponsored the Golden Age Painting Competition. The theme was drawn from the Bible: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares” and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation.” Forty paintings were submitted. Painters hailed from Argentina, Belgium, Russia, Switzerland and Israel. Faiths represented included Jews, Christians and Muslims. A panel of judges chose the winner: 73-year-old Israeli Eli Zarfati of Ashkelon. In his painting (photo), the red symbolizes war. The butterflies are flying to hold back the winds of war. Within a tank is a plow to sow seeds of peace. A special award was given to Israeli Lion Gila Ezrachi, one of the blind painters. The competition was held at the Knesset (Parliament) in Jerusalem.
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