A message from Gerald Mballe::
As a refugee who has benefitted from the genersous support of Lions Clubs International Foundation, I wish to first extend my gratitude to Lions Clubs International and the Foundation for supporitng those most on the margins. I know i speak on behalf of many refugees and migrants when I express these sincere thanks.
The generosity and kind spirit of Lions Clubs volunteers worldwide comes at a critical time in human history. Not since World War II has the world seen so many displaced people due to conflict and poverty. Through Lions service and support, entire communities across the world are having their dignity restored, and hope renewed. The statistics are staggering: 82 million people are on the move in 2021, and there has never been a more urgent need for support than right now.
I know what it feels like to be obliged to flee your home without knowing the future. I had to escape the violence of Boko Haram, only to witness more and more violence on my way to what is now- miracously- a better future. This better future was made possible by the movemnt of Special Olympics and the partnership they share with Lions Clubs International Foundation, called “Mission: Inclusion.” In fact, it is this mission of forging stronger inclusion across the world that brought me, a refugee without an intellectual disabily, to train and compete with Special Olympics Italia athletes. They opened up my eyes, they opened up their own hearts to me, and in doing so, created an entire future of opportunity, discovery, hope.
I was rescued in the Mediterranean, by the grace of God. I was brought to a refugee camp in the north of Italy, where I was shocked, stunned, isolated, and fearful. I felt total desperation and quite often was not accepted by others in my new host community. I was traumatised as well, some days not leaving my bed out of fear, anxiety, and confusion.
It was at this time that I was introduced to Unified Sports of Special Olympics, a program heavily supported by Lions Clubs International Foundation and Lions throughout the world. I was given the chance to Play Unified. More than participating in play, I was crossing an emotional bridge that has brought me to understand the critical and powerful role that service plays in our world today. I was given the chance to learn from some of the best teachers in the world- individuals with intellectual disabilties. This was made possible by so many, including Lions Clubs International Foundation, and I could not be more grateful.
Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International Foundation, through “Mission: Inclusion”, gave the chance to dream again. They gave me the chance to help others as an Advisor to Special Olympics Unified with Refugees programming. They gave me the opportunity to learn from the solidarity that both organizations embody in all they do.
Sports and service have the ability to connet like few other social elements. As Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International Foundation celebrate their 20th Anniversary this year, may it serve as a rallying cry for so many- even those on the move- that through service and solidary, we can change the world. As Lions worldwide say so truthfully- Kindness Matters.