The Lions gather in Toulouse

CoSouth District autumn meeting on October 8 at Toulouse 1 Capitole University

The Lions clubs of the Southern District organize their autumn congress in the pink city, Saturday, October 8 at the University of Toulouse 1 Capitole. The opportunity to strengthen ties between the clubs and the associations they support, to elect leaders and to share ideas and thoughts after two years very disrupted by the health crisis. Presentation of the event and the program of this day with John AxelosGovernor of the Southern District.

If I ask you to sum up in a few words what the mission and spirit of Lions Clubs are, what would you say?

I will answer you by quoting Melvin Jonesfounder of Lions Clubs International in 1917: “You can’t get very far in life if you don’t start by doing something for someone else”. More than a century later, our clubs and our members have remained true to the founding phrase and spirit of Melvin Jones. When you have succeeded in life, personally and professionally, when you have thought about yourself and your family, it is time to think about others. This is the time when you can join the Lions Club, which is based on a certain number of values ​​and unites many people wishing to get involved for the good of the City and all those who live there.

Regarding the actions of Lions Clubs, should we speak of charity in the broad sense or is it more targeted than that?

We are the first NGO in the world with 1.4 million members and our actions are structured around five main areas: the fight against diabetes, sight (the creation of the white cane is an innovation that we owe to Lions Clubs in the last century), the environment, forms of childhood cancer, and the fight against hunger. Our operations are implemented in different ways along these lines in the 200 countries where Lions clubs exist.

That said, each club can choose to get involved for causes other than these, especially in France where it is the 1901 law associations that have full latitude to organize their actions and set their objectives as they wish. Many clubs act locally (in self-sacrifice or financial donation) to help people with disabilities, support a young person who has to undergo surgery abroad that is not covered by Social Security, collect money for the Food bank, the Restos du Coeur, or finance the purchase or training of a guide dog, etc.

We can therefore decline our objectives as we wish according to the five axes that I have described, but there are also clubs which are committed in other areas. I am thinking of the animal cause, which is very important today and which is very close to the heart of the young generation. The club is autonomous, it is he who decides on its actions and the use of the funds it collects as well as the use of the self-sacrifice of its members.

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The organization is the same all over the world, with clubs that can be grouped into districts?

Absolutely, our members are spread over 200 countries and as a general rule, a country constitutes a district. In those where the Lions clubs are very numerous, and this is the case in the United States, in Europe… and in France where there are 12,000 clubs, another organization is necessary. There are therefore several districts in our country, 15 in all with 15 governors who sit on the board of governors in Paris. This council governs and animates the Lions clubs of France and makes the link with the Lions Clubs International whose headquarters are in the United States.

What area covers the Southern District and how many clubs are attached to it?

The Southern District brings together 110 clubs and 2,200 members spread over 13 departments, from Gers to Hérault, from Corrèze to Pyrénées-Orientales. In France, we have tried to divide the districts so that they are balanced in number of members. I specify that our clubs are mixed for the most part, with some entities only male or female in rare places. There is total freedom on this point, what counts being to be dynamic, motivated and to want to do things together with a group of friends. Friendship comes first in everything we do. I would add that to create a club, there must be at least 20 members at the start.

The Lions gather in Toulouse

How do I become a member of a Lions club? By cooptation, friendly network or is it enough to “knock on the door” by offering one’s services?

Traditionally, Lions membership has been more by cooptation, often by first coming to participate in a service as a friend of a member before entering the club oneself. A habit called into question by the evolution of our society, the volunteer of today no longer being that of a few years ago. We no longer join the Lions Club out of a sense of belonging, we join it out of a desire to make ourselves useful and for the self-realization that this approach implies.

We have understood this well by now going out to people ourselves to explain who we are and what we do. For example, we offer “discovery evenings” with local authorities, CCIs, etc. The goal is to publicize our actions and our operation in such a way as to attract people in their fifties and forties who, having succeeded in life, wish to put their experience, their skills and their network at the service of the causes that we defend.

For decades, the Lions have had extraordinary expertise in organizing large-scale events that they know how to mount in a very short time by uniting the population and other associations around them. For this expertise to continue, we need men and women of the younger generation, youth attracting youth. It is essential that our values ​​and the formidable tool that our elders bequeathed to us be passed on to them.

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The South District’s autumn congress is therefore held at the Toulouse 1 Capitole University on October 8, the city where this gathering takes place changes each year.

Like many associations, we rotate the location of our general assemblies, the Southern District, by organizing two per year. Club presidents or governors, we are elected. The first are by the members of their club and the second by the clubs. These elections take place during a general assembly in the fall, each year in a different city. All the cities of the Southern District having infrastructures allowing to receive the 500 to 800 members participating in our congress are likely to welcome us.

We also organize a congress in the spring, most often in April, having more the form of an extraordinary assembly intended possibly to modify our statutes or to review our organization. So, to sum up, it’s more about electing our leaders in the fall and changing our statutes in the spring.

How will the day of October 8 unfold, and with what program?

On October 8, we will be welcomed by the President of theToulouse 1 Capitole University who is kind enough to make the hall and the large amphitheater of his establishment available to us. In the hall will be installed a sort of forum of the associations with which we are used to working, throughout the South District and in Toulouse in particular. They will have a stand there, in a very friendly space where entry is free for the public.

Our members will be gathered in the large amphitheater. We will begin with the statutory part of this day for the election of our leaders, preceded by several speeches, in particular those of the applicants. At the end of this first part, there will be a 45-minute break during which we can go to the forum to meet the associations and their representatives, to thank them for their work and to strengthen ties with them.

We will then regroup again in the amphitheater for a second part dedicated especially to the younger generation. I will give the floor to what I call the three youths, in other words the internal youth, the external youth and the quadras/fifties. “Internal” youth is the movement Leo, sponsored association of Lions Club International. Each Leo club is sponsored by a Lions club. I invited its national president, Romain Precetti, hoping that he will be able to move since he will be in exam period at that time. If he cannot be present, the local manager will speak in his place for about ten minutes to explain what the Leo Club is, how it is organized, etc.

As for our “external” youth, it is made up of the young people we help through an English-speaking international program and a French-speaking program. Thanks to these devices, we send and receive young people from all over the world in camps, English-speaking or French-speaking. The floor will be given to a young party this year for three weeks in Denmark, sponsored by a club. He will recount the experience that allowed him to discover, at the age of 18, another country in a family that welcomed and supported him. There will also be a young Spaniard received in a French-speaking camp in France. She will also come back to her experience, how she lived it and what it brought her. Giving young people a voice seems essential to me on a day like this.

The third part will lead us to reflect on the attractiveness of Lions Clubs. At the heart of this October congress, there is adaptation, motivation and innovation. We are looking for people in their forties/fifties, who are still active, and we need to think about how to attract them and then ensure that they stay with us. What can we bring them? How should we talk to them? How should we welcome them? These are the subjects to which our reflections will be devoted.

For this, we will have the chance to have the example of the most beautiful jewel of French rugby, the Toulouse Stadiumrepresented by its chairman Didier Lacroix who will intervene to share his personal experience and his experience as manager of a high-level club, the most prestigious in French rugby. After his speech, there will be a round table in which the president of the Toulouse 1 Capitole University, Didier Lacroix, some Lions officials and perhaps representatives of local civil society should participate. The focus of the discussion will revolve around the issue of volunteering today, new ways to attract volunteers and keep them in our clubs. We need members who are committed for the long term, ready to reach out to people to convince them to help us and to join us.

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Jean Axelos – Governor of the Southern District

How many people are you expecting at this congress?

The two previous years, very disrupted by the health crisis, we brought together between 250 and 350 people. Toulouse is a large population pool where we have around forty clubs. We therefore hope to welcome more than 500 participants. Registrations are just starting these days, knowing that the week before the congress is when most people decide. The pink city having a strong power of attraction, many members should come from afar to attend the congress. It’s really a very important event for us and I’m counting on the public, members of Lions, associations or simply curious, to be there!

Interview conducted by Eric Duprix

Southern District Lions Club website: Lions Club – District 103 South – Home (


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