Good afternoon to you.
It is always a distinct pleasure for Lady Allen and me to be among service-minded person. In fact, as an honorary member of the Lions Club of Kingston, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this special annual activity for launching White Cane Month. Last week, as I marked my 4th anniversary as Governor-General, I recalled that one of my earliest speaking engagements was at the launch of White Cane Month in 2009. It was a good opportunity to declare my views on volunteerism in general and to identify with the respected Lions movement. It was on that occasion that I was inducted into this Lions Club and learned how to roar!
I am using this opportunity to commend the Lions and Leos across Jamaica who have been rendering altruistic service for almost 50 years. I want to affirm your efforts to enrich and influence the lives of countless thousands of individuals. Although your celebration of Past District Governor’s Month was in February, I want to take this opportunity to commend all of these worthy Jamaicans for their strong and effective leadership. I salute them for their unwavering commitment to this international service organization. Their depth of knowledge and invaluable experience will no doubt continue to be beneficial to the Lions movement and to Jamaica.
March is District Governor’s Month, and so I ask you, Lion 1st Vice District Governor, to extend to District Governor Lion Tony Buncamper, my kind regards and best wishes for a year of service and leadership that is truly rewarding.
Lions and Leos, ladies and gentlemen, more than 1.35 million Lions in approximately 46,000 clubs worldwide have collectively pooled their time, talent and their treasure to assist communities in their sphere of influence. It is clear that the energy and enthusiasm that you display is embedded in your Mission Statement: “To empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through Lions clubs.”
Lions are engaged in meaningful projects in areas of health, housing, youth, education, the environment, mentoring, and community development, among others. In these ways, they have put into practice the simple but powerful and explicit motto of Lions International: “We Serve”. At this juncture I am reminded that it is better to serve than to be served.
I am especially heartened by your strong spirit of volunteerism, as it supports one of my firm beliefs: that volunteerism is an important aspect of Jamaica’s nation building process. It is one of the pillars on which our nation must rest if we are to grow and develop according to our Vision. It is a fact that the best-intentioned government, hampered by very limited resources, cannot respond to all the socio-economic needs of our communities. So we depend on our voluntary organizations and churches to help to inculcate in our young people social graces, positive attitudes, high morals and values.
Undoubtedly most Jamaicans associate the Lions Clubs with sight, be it sight preservation or sight conservation. That has been the signature area of focus of the International Association of Lions Clubs since 1925, eight years after its inception in 1917. In that year 1925, at its annual Convention in Ohio, guest speaker Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since then, Lions, including you in Jamaica, have worked tirelessly to aid the blind and the visually impaired.
In addition to the other challenges you have embraced, our Jamaican Lions, have made eye care and the detection of eye diseases more available and more affordable to countless Jamaicans through your various sight-related projects. Your public awareness programmes have also made it easier for the blind and visually impaired to use our streets and public transportation. You are doing tremendous work at the Lions Sight Foundation Clinic which officially opened its doors in Kingston three years ago. Permit me to congratulate the Lions Club of Kingston, for this sterling initiative which has given “vision” to many.
As we now launch White Cane Month for 2013:
· I encourage the media to spread the inspiring news about the tremendous work the Lions are doing in our country;
· I urge all Jamaicans to follow the example of the Lions and other service clubs in their effort to be each other’s keeper;
· I encourage corporate Jamaica to be generous in their support of the activities of the Lions Clubs in Jamaica and, in particular, their work in the area of sight, and finally,
· I urge all Lions and Leos to remain true to your mission. As you reach out to the needy in our society, I want you to know that you are making a difference!
I wish for you a successful White Cane Month. May God continue to bless all of you and the work you are doing in Jamaica, Land we love! I now declare White Cane Month 2013 officially launched.