“As they say, when you steer someone across the river, you will have crossed the river yourself, and happier you will be that you helped someone else to cross.”
We can only make a lasting sustainable difference in the lives of our people by empowering them.
These words from Immediate Past District Governor Dr. Eng. Dans Naturinda of District 411B Uganda captures the collective, grassroots approach that the Lions of Uganda have embraced as their clubs grow in membership and in their ability to impact the communities in which they live.
District 411B attained provisional district status in 2018 with 952 members and became a full district on July 1, 2020 after chartering seven new clubs with 575 new members and a net membership growth of 450. Its membership growth made it possible to surpass the 500,000 goal of people served at the beginning of the year to serving nearly 3,000,000 people that year, making an immediate impact on many more lives.
This achievement was the result of years of leaders working together, and, as IPDG Dans puts it, “creates a spirit of humanitarianism while promoting the value of service to attract those we serve to give back and also to join us to serve others in need.” This had a multiplier effect. More members in Uganda means more hands to serve Ugandans.
Building a sustainable Lions brand
The goals and strategies of D411B are aimed at fostering a fundamental change in the way Lions serve. They constitute empowering and involving every Lion to make a difference in their communities and build a strong foundation for the district. They achieved sustainability through current leaders working together with incoming and past leaders to implement an ongoing and collaborative plan for success.
In collaboration with IPDG Dans, First Vice District Governor Lion Sedrace M. Rwekikiga pointed out that the emphasis for the year 2020-2021 is on service projects because they “have a potential for sustainable impact and enable us to leave our footmark in the communities we serve.”
In addition to preparing her for her tenure as 2020-2021 district governor, FVDG Sedrace, who at the time also served as the projects coordinator, led district-based projects and their implementation through local fundraising and utilized Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) funds to support these initiatives. Lions enthusiastically participated in the projects, providing greater visibility and high-impact services with plans to have a signature activity for each club to define its existence in the community it serves.
Second Vice District Governor John Bosco Ntangaare, who also served as the district Global Membership Team (GMT) coordinator, cited the District’s Operations Manual, a document with information that outlines the plans, systems and processes that govern the district, and added that the district had made tremendous progress to increase membership but more recruitment efforts were still needed. The manual, “provided an appropriate structure of officers that empowers us to work with clubs,” he said. “The unofficial goal is to triple the set targets. In so doing, we shall be increasing our visibility and empowering ourselves to serve our communities better.”
Inspiring a shared vision
As part of this plan, the district set up various engagement teams to support clubs and members. For example, the Member Experience Support Team has been working with clubs to retain current members and engage former ones, all by focusing on member engagement and satisfaction. Through this engagement, clubs are encouraged to utilize Lions Clubs International resources such as the Club Retention, Member Satisfaction and Your Club Your Way guides.
Identifying conflict resolution has been another strategy for retention. D411B created a Mediation and Conflict Resolution Team headed by a district officer with representatives in every zone. When conflicts arise within clubs, they are resolved using the established mechanisms with the help of senior members, such as past presidents, as it can sometimes be challenging to resolve these conflicts internally. The team ensures that any serious conflicts are resolved through mediation without risking the strength of a club.
On-time payment of both district and international dues has often been another challenge with some clubs as it has placed clubs in status quo and at risk of having their charter suspended. So the district initiated a Club Credit Support Scheme at the district level with officers to promote it at the zone level. This system acts as insurance for clubs that may be experiencing financial challenges. The requirement is that clubs contribute to the scheme regularly, and when they are at risk of suspension, they can borrow from the fund and pay the money back within a specified period.
Enabling others to act
The ongoing district plan has also empowered the Global Action Team (GAT) to be at the forefront of the action. The GMT expanded to include separate district officers for recruitment, an extension program and member experience support, all reporting to the GMT coordinator.
“Membership growth is always the number one priority of Lions as it directly relates to the scope of our services and the number of lives we can affect,” says Second Vice District Governor John Bosco Ntangaare. The district aims to improve membership value and reach new markets by stimulating exponential membership growth involving a multi-pronged approach that expands GAT at both the district and the zone levels.
The district GLT was expanded to include extra district officers in charge of club officer mentorship, district leader development, Lions mentorship program and online training through the Lions Learning Centre. The GLT coordinator oversees these officers with the support of the corresponding zone officers. The officers are in direct contact with club officers in their zones to mentor and support them in their respective portfolios.
All district leaders undergo orientation organized by the GLT coordinator before assuming office. The coordinator also provides continuous development support throughout the year for both incumbent and aspiring leaders. The zone officers support the club leaders in their planning and continuously mentor them as they take on their new leadership roles. “Leadership is the driving force that ensures we achieve our goals and aspirations. So we need to focus on leadership development at all levels of our association,” says GLT Coordinator Lion Gervase Ndyanabo.
Encourage people and recognize contributions
With regards to service, GST Coordinator Lion John Akure says, “We can only make a lasting sustainable difference in the lives of our people by empowering them. We can empower them with ideas, skills, creativity, innovation and participatory service delivery in all the major areas of service. Let’s work with our communities for our communities and make them better.” To ensure regular activities for every club, the district has utilized a team of zone officers focusing on various service areas. These officers work to support clubs with planning and implementing service activities.
Clubs are encouraged to identify an area in which they can excel, in line with one of the district’s core values of Excellency. It is important that whatever activities Lions engage in that they excel so they will be known for providing the best services to their communities. Zone officers help clubs identify their areas of strength and community needs through a systematic assessment to ensure that Lions do their best and meet the expectations of the communities they serve.
Clubs subscribe to Lions International’s strategy to enhance service impact, and officers are appointed to oversee service activities across the global causes. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck in Uganda, Lions Alert under the Disaster Preparedness & Relief was activated. The Lions Emergency Response Team acted swiftly as first responders amid the pandemic, liaising with government departments and officials, the Ministry of Health, hospitals, media houses and other humanitarian organizations to bring relief and much-needed support to those affected.
Lions clubs in Uganda are actively involved with local task forces in the fight against COVID-19 and are represented on local committees. They have had numerous interventions utilizing funds raised by clubs and a $10,000 Emergency Grant from LCIF to provide sanitizers, personal protective equipment, surgical masks, facemasks, theatre gowns and gumboots among others. The visibility of Lions during the pandemic, among other factors, has led to a surge in membership, with four clubs being chartered in the district between April and September 2020.
IPDG Dr. Dans with the Ministry of Health Commissioner for Emergency Medical Services Dr. John Baptist Waniaye Nambohe.
“We have made it possible for new members to join our clubs, to retain current members and to even charter new clubs by rebranding what it means to be a Lion as a gateway to greater opportunities to make a difference in our communities by empowering people to live productive lives and improve their quality of life,” says IPDG Dans. “If we can enlighten everyone that caring for others is a better way of caring for ourselves, then we shall have empowered them enough to change the world for the better.”
Thanks to the work and unified succession planning of its leaders, District 411B, Uganda, is in a sustainable position to create lasting change.
Viola Jobita is a Global Action Team specialist for Constitutional Areas CA IV & VIII for Lions Clubs International.
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