On Diversity and Inclusion
On the Global Lions Forum, the question was asked: "Young people often prioritize diversity and inclusion", how does your club measure up? and that got a lot of the Lions thinking. This is what President David had to say:
Inclusivity also means being strategic about your recruitment. Does your club look like your community? One of the things the Fort Bend Lions Club did is we looked at the schools demographics to see what our students looked like. Now we’re being intentional about reaching out to people who look more like the students. 22% of our club is Hispanic and 16% identify as black. That’s a huge difference from what we used to look like.
We also make an effort to have multiple languages represented at our service events. What languages does our community speak? Okay, that’s what languages we need to have. We partnered to host a DEI series. A huge part of that series was on helping us recognize the little things that we were doing that hit like mosquito bites when we’re not even realizing.
Inclusivity is so much bigger than just wanting to be welcoming. Are we meeting in a venue that others feel welcome in? If we’re meeting in a church, is that going to make someone who was harmed in a church or ostracized by a church feel included? Are we making our meetings and service projects accessible to all? What about parking? If someone has trouble walking is it easy to still gain access?
And are we communicating in multiple platforms? It’s easy to think of posting on social media, but do we stop at Facebook or do we include instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.?
And how do we decide what projects to tackle? Do we ask the same people what they need? If you ask the mayor of your town what they need, will they give you the same answer as a high school student from the “other” side of town?
Just a very short post for thinking.
Lions Clubs International has 11 official languages—Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Some members might say it has an unofficial language, too: Lions Lingo.
Terms such as multiple district, Leo, Lions Quest, SightFirst, tail twister or club twinning can puzzle some members. Acronyms—including ID, PIP, OSEAL, FOLAC, PDG and LCIF—might add to the confusion. To help new members understand such words and phrases, there's a list of more common acronyms available. Although, as the club notes, “some ‘older’ members may likewise benefit by receiving a copy.”
With more than 1.4 million members in 210 countries and geographic areas around the globe, Lions expressions naturally vary from region to region. Lions in Austria have a slogan: “Wir helfen—persönlich, rasch und unbürokratisch,” which means “Lions help quickly, personally and without bureaucracy.” In Sweden, the phrase “Lions för samhällsansvar och livskvalité” means that Lions work together to improve the quality of life for everyone in society.
Whatever the language or the terms, Lions quickly connect with each other through service projects, fundraisers, social activities, regular meetings, social media and conventions. Association-wide campaigns, such as SightFirst and the Centennial Service Challenge, bring together Lions through common goals. Because as the universal Lions’ motto “We serve” suggests, together members can do more to help people in their local communities and meet humanitarian needs around the world.
In FOLAC, ANZI-Pacific, ISAAME, OSEAL and other constitutional areas, members come together under one name to serve: Lions. And whether they’re new or longtime Lions, most would admit that a handy glossary of Lions Lingo is always helpful.
International Community Building
Lions have always worked to improve their communities through service. But during the 1940s and 1950s, their community-building efforts involved a great amount of actual building.
Whether paving roads, putting up schools or creating playgrounds, Lions in that era often focused on improving their towns’ physical space. Their efforts were prominent in the both the United States and in the growing number of countries where Lions Clubs International had spread. Wherever Lions built, they made a difference.
In many parts of the world, it was a time of transition and optimism. With World War II at an end, communities once again had time to focus on growth and improvement.
In 1949, Lions in Mexico City built the first of what would become a score of new schools. Belgian Lions began construction of a medical center and prenatal facility in the town of Hingene in 1952. That same year, in rural Shoal Lake, Manitoba, Canada, Lions launched work on a playground.
The public projects that Lions contributed—the neighborhood playgrounds, gyms, campgrounds, scout buildings, memorial fountains and thousands of Lions parks—were highly visible, and many remain prominent in their towns.
Lions were busy in those years, often relying on their resourcefulness and creativity to raise the funds needed to build.
Lions in Arvada, Colorado, needed two years to raise enough money for a tennis court that doubled in winter as a community skating rink, but they made it. In Florida, Lions built a dock for the Boys’ Home Association of Jacksonville that extended 250 feet into the St. Johns River. In the late 1940s in Morrill County, Nebraska, it took Lions four years of fundraising dances and auctions before they had enough money to build a 12-bed hospital in the tiny town of Bridgeport. Lions rolled up their sleeves and built a picturesque Girl Scout camp in Menlo Park, California. And in 1947, Lions in St. George, Utah, helped to build an arena, called the Dixie Sun Bowl, for rodeos and other sporting events.
The Sun Bowl is “a monument to the Lions and to the many people who gave so much to see it evolve from a simple idea to a practical reality,” a St. George Magazine article reported. Local Lion Neal Lundberg, a key player in the Bowl’s creation, said bluntly, “It’s a good example of what can happen when you get a bunch of damned fools headed in the same direction.”
Lions continue to shape their towns with construction projects big and small. In the early 1960s, Lions in Baguio City, Philippines, built the high-profile Melvin Jones Grandstand in the city’s famous Burnham Park. And in the small community of Tottenham, Australia, Lions helped upgrade the local airstrip in 2012, lengthening the runway and installing lighting so medical airlift planes could land.
“The strength of the community is its heart,” said Ben Nicholls, president of the Tottenham Lions Club, who oversaw the project, “and our little community has plenty of heart and have done what was needed.”