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Refugee crisis – Lions take action

Refugee crisis – Lions take action

Economic distress, political turmoil, and religious persecution spur men, women and children around the world to flee their homes and resettle either within their own countries or across national borders.  It is estimated that over 6 million people have been displaced due to the Syrian war alone, leading to a myriad of challenges in the Middle East and Europe. Refugees staying at overcrowded camps or in transit to what they hope will become their adoptive countries face serious safety and health risks on their journey to safer surroundings.

How are Lions helping? Projects in Action.

Club Twinning to Support Refugees in Jordan

When the members of the Wilhelm Busch Lions Club in Hannover, Germany first learned about the humanitarian crisis escalating in Syria in September 2013 and the impact it had on the surrounding countries, they felt compelled to help. The club reached out to the members of Amman Philadelphia Lions Club, located in Jordan, where nearly 800,000 Syrians were staying in overcrowded refugee camps.  The two clubs began working together to determine what they could do to help, and the course of action to take.

With winter looming around the corner, the Amman Philadelphia Lions identified a need for clothing, shoes and blankets at the camps. The Wilhelm Busch Lions Club jumped to action and organized a large drive in their district to collect gently used, clean clothes, shoes, hats, gloves, blankets, sleeping bags and baby items for the refugees. The drive resulted in two airline containers full of the desperately needed supplies!  The containers were shipped to Jordan, where the Amman Philadelphia Lions Club handled the receiving, customs and delivery to refugee camps.

The project was so successful the two clubs repeated it in January 2016 and shipped and delivered another four containers of clothing, shoes and other items to refugees in need. They estimate that a total of 3,500 refugees in Jordan benefitted from these projects.

The Lions who were involved in this endeavor described the experience as extremely rewarding and educational. Neither club had ever done anything similar before. They sought patronage of government agencies, worked with the airport to secure a storage hangar and containers, and coordinated with the airlines and customs and refugee camp management agencies to ensure safe arrival and delivery of the items. The experience brought the clubs closer together and in January 2016, they celebrated by formalizing their friendship through the International Club Twinning Program.

Turkish Lions’ Efforts Help Refugees Rescued at Sea

On the Bus BackpackSince the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, over 300,000 Syrian refugees attempting to enter Europe have used the dangerous sea route from Turkey to Greece on unstable and overcrowded rafts and dinghies.  In 2015, close to 3,800 refugees drowned or went missing as the vessels capsized after departing the Turkish coast. The Turkish Coast Guard estimates they have rescued 54,000 refugees from the sea since January 2015. Many had lost the few items they were carrying and were at risk of hypothermia and poor nourishment.

Over 500 Turkish Lions in District 118-R participated in a relief project to provide warm clothing and hygiene products to refugees rescued at sea. With their deep desire to help those who have lost everything, the Turkish Lions applied for an LCIF grant to purchase 2,300 backpacks and filled them with blankets, tracksuits, underwear, socks, towels, shoes, hygiene products, bottled water and juice.  They reached out to the Turkish Coast Guard and developed a plan where the Lions would acquire the backpacks and the Coast Guard would store them in their facilities and hand them out to the refugees they rescue. Lions from 40 clubs worked tirelessly to price out and purchase the items, sort and pack the backpacks, and transport them to the coast. They publicized the activity in social media to rally more volunteers to help, and coordinated with various government officials to ensure the success of the project.

German Lions Provide Orientation to Refugees

Over 300,000 refugees have entered Germany since 2013 and are being settled into communities all over the country. The Lions of Multiple District 111 are playing a vital role in welcoming the newly arrived and facilitating their integration.

German Lions developed an Orientation Guide designed specifically to help refugees get started with everyday life in their new surroundings. The contents of the guide were developed in cooperation with refugees and immigration officials whom Lions interviewed to make sure the final product would be useful and culturally appropriate. The objective of the guide is to introduce life in Germany right upon arrival, prior to entering into a government supported language and integration training.

About 30 Lions Clubs participated in this multiple district project through donations and project coordination. The guide was translated into 14 languages, and a total of 76,500 copies were printed.  So far, the multiple district has received 47 orders from districts wanting to distribute the guides to local refugee receiving centers. The guide was also made available online for printing and distribution by other agencies working with refugees.

Want to get involved?

Lions can lend their support to refugee crises relief in so many ways, regardless of where they live.

  • Learn more about the refugee crises and share what you learn with your club/district/multiple district and community.
  • For updates on the refugee crisis, statistics and country profiles, visit the United Nations Refugee Agency website
  • Lions in countries that have accepted refugees are encouraged to contact their local and federal governments or immigration agencies to learn about the areas of greatest need. Review the Project Blueprints for ideas on how to get involved.  
  • Lions in non-host nations are asked to contact Lions in host nations to learn about their needs and offer support. Twinning with a Lions club in a refugee host country is a great way to stay informed and collaborate on projects.
  • Contact the Programs & Service Initiatives team at programs@lionsclubs.org for questions and additional project ideas.
  • Grant funding is available through Lions Clubs International Foundation for Lions-led relief projects in the affected areas. All proposals and questions related to potential funding can be sent to LCIFHumanitarianPrograms@lionsclubs.org.

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