Lions International is the largest service club organisation in the world. Founded 101 years ago, it operates in 200 countries worldwide, boasting 46,000 clubs with 1.4 million members. It was founded by entrepreneurs as an organisation to improve the lives of those in their local communities, as well as people around the world. The clubs promote a wide range of activities, including golf tournaments and cultural events and operate second hand shops in order to raise money for charitable organisations.
In the Costa del Sol, these have included raising money for Ciudad de los Niños, anti-AIDS and environmental charities and food banks. The organisation has also directly helped several local schools and the Red Cross. Funds from the international organisation are generally focused on alleviating suffering in developing countries. The Lions Club annual golf tournament raised $100,000 in 2015, enough for 100,000 measles vaccinations around the world. This year it will be held on 31 March in Mijas. There is also a focus on relief work after natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornados in Latin America.
Tobias Heyden is Lions International Regional President for Marbella, and has been working with the organisation since 2010. “One of my friends had recently joined a local club, and I thought it sounded like a great idea, so I decided to apply to join. I had a background check to make sure that I was serious about it and everything I was doing was above board. I was working in finance at the time, but I wanted to give something back,” he said. Tobias highly recommends becoming a member: “Everyone has their own personal interests that they can promote at the meetings. It's an excellent thing for retired people to get into; it's a good way to invest their time. You can make new friends and business contacts, as well as meeting people who speak your language. It's also very sociable, with many activities which are all for a good cause.”
Members also don't have to make a huge time commitment. “In the clubs everyone is a volunteer. I'm President of the Treasury in the German-speaking club, given my financial background. We have meetings twice a month to discuss new initiatives to raise money, and we sometimes go on excursions together. Members tend to devote between 1 to 2 hours a week, but those on the Executive Committee have to contribute substantially more time. However, I manage to fit being the Treasurer around my full-time job.”
The aim of Lions International is uniting people. “We're hoping to establish an English-speaking Lions' Club in Marbella because we want to include people from as many expat communities as possible. We're all about bringing people together.”