Autumn Forum 2016

autumnSunday 16th October saw about seventy Lions from across the District gather at the St John’s Hotel in Solihull for the annual Autumn Forum.

Our District Governor Lion Ron Cross welcomed everyone to the event and announced the result of the vote taken earlier for the position of 2nd Vice District Governor. In announcing the successful candidate as Region Chairman Lion Stewart Sherman-Khan of Birmingham Chinatown Lions Club we were reminded that the vacancy had only occurred due the very sad death of our present 2nd VDG Lion Martin Hill of Harborough 2012 Lions Clubs.

Our first speakers of the day were Vicky Ryan, Midlands Manager for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Merleen Watson, a volunteer and Grace a superbly trained dog for deaf people. After a general resume of the work done by the organisation Merleen and Grace gave an active demonstration of just what wonderful help Grace can provide for a deaf person.

Unfortunately, Autumn Forum would not be Autumn Forum without a slot about membership. PCC Lion Andy Pemberton reminded everyone of the parlous state our membership is in and hence the need for redistricting. Andy pushed home the point that membership is not just down to a few appointed Cabinet Officers but it is down to every rank and file member in this District!

Next up PDG Lion Cross gave a presentation about the Partner’s Project for this year. Linda advised how she had looked around the District and could not come up with a project that would cover the whole District that had not been done before. She had therefore turned her attention to the Centenary Challenge that had been set for all of us, particularly as this Lion’s year includes 2017! We are asked to do something for all 4 of the Centenary Challenges, YOUTH, SIGHT, HUNGER and ENVIRONMENT. Her attention had been turned to a school for blind and partially sighted children in Ndola, Zambia. The school was the project of Lions in Zambia with help from LCIF. The school opened in 1974, (Youth & Sight). Before Christmas last year the school authorities had to send some of the children home before the end of term because they did not have enough money to buy food for them all, (Hunger). Local Lions and business people have cleared land around the school so that the pupils and staff can grow vegetables, keep chickens, goats and pigs, (Environment). The aim is to be able to purchase Brailler machines, which are “typewriters” for the blind, (each machine costs about £700) together with the special paper required which is thick enough to take the raised dots and dashes. Money will be dealt with by the Lions Club of Ndola and they will have her blessing to spend money on food if an emergency situation arises. The school does have a website which is nlsfvi.blogspot.com so that you can investigate it further. There is no specific monetary target, just to purchase as many of the Braillers as possible.

Following this a very moving presentation was given by Marian and Mel Davies on Prostate Cancer, Mel from first-hand experience. A few clubs have held Prostate Cancer awareness/testing days and more clubs are encouraged to organise one.

Last up before lunch was Hugh McNeill from the Trussell Trust. Hugh manages the Coventry Foodbank. He provided some alarming statistics about the growth of Foodbanks in the UK and the number of people reliant upon them.

After lunch Region Chairman Lion Stewart-Khan addressed Forum, thanking everyone who had voted for him and stating how much of a learning process it will be for him over the next few years in view of his short time as a Lion.

We were then treated to a double act from our Young Ambassadors. Lion Ken Barker introduced Jessica Browne, our District winner whilst Lion Christine Moss introduced Gemma McNally. Jessica gave an update on how her Bursary had been spent on further work on and improvements to the Sensory Garden she had set up in memory of the youngest combatant to die in Afghanistan who was from her area. We then heard how their respective Clubs, Shirley and Marston Green had arranged for them to go on Youth Exchange and to Youth Camps, Jessica to Norway and Gemma to Finland. Both gave a resume of their experiences abroad

Thereafter we had updates on our Centennial projects and celebrations from Lion Melissa Murphy and the International Youth Camp 2017 from Lion John Barnes.

We then heard how our Centennial Convention 2017 will be held at the Ettingham Chase Hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon over the weekend Friday 17th to Sunday 19th March 2017.

The next guest speaker up was Dr Charles Fox who gave a hard-hitting talk about Diabetes and its main causes – unfit and overweight. A few Lions were seen be looking very sheepish as the talk progressed!

To lighten the mood District Message in a Bottle Officer, Lion Jackie Culliford was next up. Jackie had been running a competition throughout the day to guess the number of bottles our District had issued this year. To a little jeering the winner was declared to be IPDG Lion Haffner (did he have inside knowledge?)

Following a final open forum for questions DG Lion Ron thanked everyone for their attendance and wished them a safe journey home.

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