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November 12, 2008 > Fremont Asian Lion's Club sees new things

Fremont Asian Lion's Club sees new things

By Justine Yan

"Oh, I can do this. I can do something," is precisely the idea that Ripple Leung, newly installed president of the Fremont Asian Lion's Club, would like to spark in the members of her community.

Since May 2006, the club has brought over 60 members together, with the purpose of bridging cultural, linguistic and age differences to "become one" with the city of Fremont.

In the past, the club's focus was to serve Asian seniors who rarely get out of their homes due to a lack of mobility or familiarity with their communities and the English language. By organizing recreational activities including picnics in Santa Cruz and other regional parks, the Fremont Asian Lion's Club provided a friendly, supportive environment for seniors to make friends, express themselves, and become accustomed to their new surroundings. Many volunteers offered their support, and the club gathered donations to help fund the excursions as well.

Leung says she understands the struggles of new immigrants, such as the seniors who have been served by past programs, because she too had immigrated to the United States just four years ago.

"Being Asian, living in a city like Fremont ... it's so much easier to associate with [this club]," said Leung.

She believes that it can be somewhat intimidating to join a local club, especially when someone has not yet created relationships and made connections to the new community. It's much easier to mingle and join an Asian club, she says.

And to Leung, it is important that people of all cultural backgrounds find a way to contribute to their communities and discover a platform to express themselves.

Though to many the name suggests otherwise, The Fremont Asian Lion's Club is open to people of all ethnicities. Members and frequent volunteers include Chinese, Filipino, Indian and Caucasian individuals. Leung hopes to expand the club's membership in the future.

Though Leung admits that the club has been seeking direction for the past year, she, as one of the founders and past treasurer, is eager to raise the enthusiasm and awareness of community members to volunteer for new events and programs. Hoping to incorporate more "Lionism" into future club projects, she has already begun to advocate the Lion's in Sight Program to the Fremont City Council and School Board.

Lion's in Sight is a well-established global program that involves collecting, sorting and cleaning old eyeglasses, which will be distributed to people in developing countries who cannot afford them.

"I thought it was a great theme because Fremont has been promoting recycling - the green idea," said Leung. "I thought the city would be pretty friendly about the idea."

She has already began distributing collection boxes in doctor's offices and held a media launch on October 16 at the Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Fremont Center.

"A lot of people get a new pair of eye glasses because of their insurance coverage, every year or every six months," she said. "So apparently, there will be a lot of used glasses over time."

After glasses are sent to a warehouse in Vallejo for cleansing, volunteer optometrists will join the Lions in Sight Organization in making 10-12 mission trips to countries around the world, giving eye exams and prescribing glasses for no charge.

Meanwhile, a separate committee of the Fremont Asian Lion's Club is planning to launch the Youth Exchange Program, also supported by Lion's International, which will provide teenagers and young adults an opportunity to engage in a three-to-four-week cultural exchange by living with another Lion's Club-affiliated family in a foreign country. There, they will absorb the culture while getting involved in service projects and possibly learning a new language. The club will begin promoting the program and finding host families in the beginning of 2009.

Though Leung is enthusiastic about the new projects underway, she remains dedicated to bringing benefits through free programs based in the local area. The Senior Outing activities will continue; she hopes to organize three or four events between now and next July.

Leung believes that the Fremont Asian Lion's Club has a lot of potential. Years ago, she was encouraged to join larger, more established clubs, but she finds that, "When grocery shopping, it's nice to have a supermarket, but sometimes, its helpful to have some small- or medium-sized stores as a choice for other people to blend in."

And the Fremont Asian Lion's Club, being small and new, has attracted people who feel more comfortable in a simpler structure and still want to have a platform to express themselves. Leung feels there is more flexibility, and the connection is more personal.

Taking up the club and reviving it is no small task; neither is constructing a bridge that spans cultures, ages and backgrounds. But to Leung, it is a small mission.

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