By Lion Naidoo R. Veerapen
Secretary, Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club, Inc.
Our previous article discussed the background to the establishment of the Lions as an Organization in 1917, and its phenomenal growth to a vibrant service organization in over 200 countries, 103 years later. Although Lionism was well established in New York State, a Club was formed in the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park community only in June 2012, when the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club (RHSOPLC) received its charter.
The Mission of Lions Clubs International (LCI) as spelt out on its web page is “To empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through Lions clubs”, and the Lions of the freshly minted Club took to Lionism like ducks to water. The management structure in the Lions’ Organization was superbly designed to encourage selflessness and teamwork for success, rather than individualism and ego, which usually destroy mass organizations. LCI is headed by an International President who serves for one year only. Each District is headed by a District Governor (DG) whose term also comes to an end after one year. When a DG demits office, he/she is entitled to join the District’s Association of PDG’s (Past District Governors). This Association provides a valuable forum for PDG’s to continue to contribute to the District at a high leadership level.
Clubs generally schedule two meetings per month, the general member meeting which includes all member Lions, and guests, and then the members of the Club’s Board meet once a-month. There is also the issue of funding, and all Clubs require an annual membership fee. The annual membership fee of the RHSOPLC is currently $150, which is not considered to be too high, nor too low, by today’s standards and when compared to the fees of other organizations.
One exciting achievement of the RHSOPLC was the launch of its Alpha Leo Club, the youth organization of the Lions Club. Our Alpha Leo Club, which consists of members between 12 years and 18 years, has been a source of great satisfaction and pride.to the Lions. The RHSOP Leo Club was launched exceedingly early in the Club’s existence and provided an opportunity for our youths to learn about Lionism, and plan and execute service projects, thereby experiencing the joyful satisfaction that flows from contributing in a positive and meaningful way to one’s community. For our Leos, teaming up with total strangers to achieve a common goal was a novel experience that was priceless. Whether it was picking up garbage that was strewn about at Smokey Park, or working with the Lions to distribute toys to young children during the holidays, or handing out backpacks to students returning to school, they were seeing life from another angle, and they all enjoyed it!
The Leos were formally organized with a President, Secretary and Treasurer, and held meetings once a month to plan and prepare their projects. In accordance with LCI rules, the Lions appointed a Leo Advisor to work with the Leos as a supervisor, mentor, go to person, including mother away from home. We were very blessed that our Lion Mary Diakite agreed to serve as Leo Advisor during the past 4 years, succeeding Lion Carolina Soto who was the first Advisor. Lion Mary quickly won the trust and confidence of her young charges and, with the help of assistant advisors, has been able to help our Leos develop into a successful group of young citizens. But it was not all physical work, and the RHSOP Leos added to their sparkle, individually and collectively, by winning the 2015 District 20-K1 Leos Debating Competition.
That Champion Team was comprised of Leo Simran Bahl, Leo Jasmine Hitlall, Leo Imanee Soto and Leo Joshua Hitlall. In a natural progression from Leo to Lion, both former Leos Jasmine and Joshua Hitlall have transitioned to the RHSOPLC as full-fledged Lions. The Club’s Leos continued to reach new heights, and despite their youthfulness demonstrated unusual creativity in the planning and execution of various projects. In 2017 and 2018 RHSOP Leos organized Girls Empowerment Programs which attracted a wide cross section of college age young women. The event was changed in 2019 to include boys in the target audience and was called the Youth Empowerment Program.
The feedback from all who attended was very gratifying, and several college counselors who attended encouraged the Club to make it an annual event. The 2020 event was cancelled because of the Covid -19 pandemic. However, the Leos continued to serve the community, and then Leo President Aruna Budhram lead the members in preparing health care videos which were used by the Jamaica Hospital and the St. Johns Hospital. In 2020, the Leos completed a project to raise funding to help provide clean water for children in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen.
The amount of $2,010 was raised by the Leos for this project which was part of the UN’s Save the Children program. It was certainly not the type of work one would associate with young teenagers, but these were Leos. Today the RHSOP Leo Club has 28 members and is managed by an Executive Committee with the following officers: President: Leo Leena Elemary, Vice President: Leo Aruna Budhram, Secretary: Leo Zoe Indarshan, Asst. Secretary: Leo Emily Haffiz, Treasurer: Leo Chelsea Umrow, Asst. Treasurer: Leo Devika Murray, & Event Coordinator: Leo Victoria Persaud. Leo Aruna Budhram served two terms as President and has been elevated to President of the Leos of District 20-K1, an achievement for which her parent Club, RHSOPLC is immensely proud.
The establishment of the Lions Club some 103 years ago would have had an impact on various communities in over 200 countries. While initially touted as a service or charitable organization in material terms, LCI would have also influenced the personal and spiritual development of the citizens in which there are Lions Clubs.
The Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions and Leo Clubs invite you to discuss the possibility of becoming a member of our organization and share in the glorious and satisfying lifestyle of voluntary service.
The 2020/2021 Executive Board of the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club is comprised of: Lion Romeo Hitlall, PMJF, President; Lion Motie Phanisnaraine, MJF, 1st Vice President; Lion Johnnie Walker, 2nd Vice President; Lion Naidoo Veerapen, MJF, Secretary; Lion Devindra Persaud, MJF, Treasurer; Lion Todd Greenberg, Membership Chairperson; Lion Mary Diakite, MJF, Leos advisor /Asst. Secty.; Lion Joylyn Wheeler-Persaud, Leos Co-advisor; Lion Jasmine Hitlall, Club Marketing & Communications Chair; Lion Nirmala Singh, Member- Board of Directors; Lion Narzim Mohamed, Member – Board of Directors; Lion Raj Deen, Member – Board of Directors; Lion Mitch Budhram, Member – Board of Directors; and Lion Vernon Kubair Member – Board of Directors.