FINLAND This Huge, Four-Day Fair is Excellent The largest agricultural fair in Finland spreads out on 56 acres at the Oripää Airport and features a wide range of farm animals, machinery, handicrafts and fairground rides. The Oripää Lions Club has run the OKRA Agricultural Fair for nearly 35 years. The four-day event showcases the latest innovations in agriculture, forestry, farm machinery, energy technology, cattle breeding and dairy and poultry production. It draws industry experts, government officials such as Finland’s agricultural secretary, European Union administrators and 500 exhibitors from several nations including Italy, Croatia and Sweden. Last year 82,000 visitors came. The 39-member Lions club partners with 30 other local groups to run the fair, which requires a staff of 350. The club gives each group 20 euros (US$22) for each work hour. The networking is true to the theme of District 107 A: “Together we can reach our goals.” Yet Lions are sure to emphasize their leadership role: children at the fair are given balloons with the Lions logo. The next OKRA Fair is in July. This cow won a top award at the OKRA Fair. ROMANIA Blind Now Use the Internet Hundreds of blind people in Romania are now using the Internet thanks to software developed and distributed by Lions clubs. The innovative BatPro software allows those with vision impairments to surf the Internet using the four arrow keys on the keyboard. “It’s very easy to use,” says Radu Cristea of the Cluj-Napoca Transilvania Lions Club. “We had a blind person try it for the first time, and in two minutes they knew exactly how to use it.” The clubs were supported by a US$50,000 grant from the Orange Foundation, established in Romania in 2012 to assist the blind and others not fully participating in digital communication. The clubs purchased more than 100 computers, installed the BatPro software and distributed the computers through associations for the blind and visually impaired. Clubs in Romania are helping the blind use computers and the Internet. The Arad Lions Club hired a programmer to design the software. The text-to-speech mechanism was developed and donated by a Lion from a company that designs software and hardware for the visually impaired. Lions in Romania are devoting many volunteer hours to making Bat- Pro accessible. They visit the homes of those with vision impairments to train them how to use it. The software can be downloaded for free as well. “There was nothing like this in Romania,” says Cristea, 40, a past club president and zone and region chairperson. He is the co-author of “Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage,” which details (in English) the hardships suffered by Romanians under communism and the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Cristea says the software is superior in at least one respect to software for the blind available in the West. “The beauty of BatPro is the fact you only need four keys,” he says. “Younger blind people get used to computers or have smart phones. We’re targeting blind people over 45 that are captive in their home and only have the radio for information.” Part of Lions Clubs International since 1990, Romania has 1,186 Lions in 58 clubs. NORDIC NATIONS Multination Symphony Hits the Right Notes As many as 1,000 students from throughout the Nordic nations compete each year to be selected for the Orkester Norden. The 90 members of the orchestra live and practice together for two weeks and then hit the road to play concerts for a week in Nordic and Baltic nations. Making the orchestra is an honor. Being in it is intense, fun and highly advantageous to pursuing a musical career. “They get great instruction. World famous conductors manage the orchestra,” says Norwegian Lion Erik Evang, a retired teacher who helped begin the orchestra as a Lions project in the early 1990s. The orchestra is an interesting collaboration of Lions from five nations: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Along with support from the Nordic Council Cultural Foundation, the Lions share the costs—and share the orchestra. Every five years the musicians assemble in another Nordic nation. The current host is Alborg, Denmark. Aside from the Nordic shows, thanks to its stellar reputation, the orchestra also often plays at prestigious events. It heralded the opening of the Nordic embassies in Berlin, celebrated the centennial of the birth of U.N. Secretary- General Dag Hammarskjöld and toured China with expenses footed by its Ministry of Culture. Rolf Gutpa, a renowned conductor, led the Orkester Norden when it was based in Kristiansand, Norway. Nearly a third of orchestra alumni now play for professional orchestras. Many develop lifelong friends. For some, such as a young woman from Latvia whose parents’ lives were affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the orchestra is a turning point. Elina won a stipend to study music at the highly regarded university in St. Petersburg. Digital LION The Mississippi All-State Band is invaluable for youths (May 2007 LION). Read the story at lionmagazine.org. GHANA Relief After Floods and Fire Floods deluged Accra, the capital, drowning residents and destroying homes. Compounding the disaster, the rushing waters swept stored fuel at a gas station into a nearby fire. The huge explosion took the lives of people who had taken shelter from the rain. Working with the Red Cross and bolstered by a $10,000 Emergency grant from LCIF, the Accra Golden Lions Club distributed goods at a church auditorium to those in need. Two hundred sixty households received buckets, mosquito nets, blankets, soap, rice, cooking oil and water. “The community was appreciative—especially because the distribution was orderly and stress-free,” says Abigail Amoah, region chairperson and a past club president. “For most, this was their first contact with Lions. They heard who Lions are and what we do.” SOUTH SUDAN Lions Counter Polio Beset by a civil war, South Sudan, declared poliofree in 2009, saw two new cases of polio that led to paralysis in 2014. The Juba Host Lions Club, founded the year before as the nation’s first club, has taken on polio. Two Lions are nurses who have experience in vaccinations. Several members also received training from a World Health Organization specialist in administering vaccines, finger marking and tallying. The Lions travelled to a Juba nursery school and vaccinated 15 children. “The Lions vaccinated only 15 children because the rest were immunized,” says President Loku Abiya Awule. The club will do more vaccinations during National Immunization Days. The club also holds blood donations, helps deworm schoolchildren and gives supplies to those affected by floods.
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