The Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organisation in the world, with 1.35m members in 207 countries.
Each year, those members contribute approximately 76m hours of unpaid effort — which results in an extraordinary 36,500 people working full-time for a year.
Because Lions Clubs are locally based, they can accurately assess and serve the unique needs of the communities in which they live.
Ireland has 117 Lions Clubs, with 2,756 members.
Where I live in West Cork, the Bantry Bay Club was formed in 2005 by Ernie Lewis, and has formed enduring partnerships with local groups like the Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul. They have been involved in many local fundraising projects, too.
I caught up with member and club PRO John Dervan to find out more about how Lions work on a local level.
* When did you first become involved with the Lions, John? >>About five years ago. I was invited to a barbecue the Lions were holding, and after talking to a few of the members, I decided I’d like to be a part of things. I liked the idea of putting something back in to the community. I had recently moved to the area to help out my parents who had retired here. My father was originally from Galway, and they had settled in Glengarriff. I realised that joining the Lions was also a great way of getting to know more like-minded people.
* What was your first assignment? >>It was helping to run the putting game at the Bantry Agricultural Show, and I really enjoyed it. I had a good feeling right away. Later in the year I helped with putting together the food hampers the Lions assemble every year for those in need, and I realised how important this work was.
* I believe the Lions fund any overheads and administrative costs themselves, correct?
>>Yes, that’s one of the reasons we are able to do so much. Nobody gets paid, and every penny raised goes to the cause we are working for. We have a great team here in Bantry who have raised money for many local causes such as the palliative care unit, the Beara Caring Project and donations for the fishing tragedy victims’ families.
* And I believe you have some new initiatives in the pipeline? >>We are always looking at new ways we can help. And one of our latest ideas came after we realised that young children who are taken ill and have to be transported to hospital in an ambulance could find the whole experience very frightening. So we developed a lovely cuddly lion toy that is waiting for them in the ambulance. It’s been really popular.
* It’s sometimes difficult for the emergency services to find the more remote rural houses, isn’t it? >>Yes, especially when they don’t always show up on satnav devices. So one of our members has developed a satnav GPS system that functions locally, that the emergency services can access. It’s made a huge difference.
* And didn’t I hear something about a message in a bottle? >>Yes, that’s another device to help the emergency services. We’ve issued stickers that people who are on medication can place on their front and back doors to alert medics, and to let them know that the medication that person is taking can be found in a bottle in the fridge.”
* I understand belated congratulations are in order for the work the Bantry Bay Lions did during those terrible floods a few years ago.
>> Yes, we were proud to be named club of the year in 2010, as a result of the contributions we made to fundraising for flood victims across Ireland.
* It sounds as if you would have no hesitation in recommending joining the Lions, John? >> Absolutely. But the success of any club can’t be achieved without the support of the local community, and the people in our area are incredibly generous with their donations and their time. As a member, you’ll join a respected international organisation, and a service-minded group of women and men, a leader in your community and a friend to people in need. We are actively recruiting at the moment so we invite anyone who is interested to contact us.”
For more information, see bantrybaylions.com or contact Marion Rouse at 086 2416508.
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