Doing the most good

What if you were able to recognize a problem and figure out the best way to solve it? 

There are countless headlines about events that make us want to reach out and help. Natural disasters. Hunger. Homelessness. Disease. The list goes on and on.

But there’s good news in there: We can do something about it. We can, no matter how small a step we take, go in the right direction to make this world happier, safer and healthier for everyone. 

The first step is recognizing what needs to happen. Then we do the work.  

Sounds hard, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Every single act of service gets us closer to a better world.

The photos below show acts of service by members of Kiwanis from all over the world. Service of every form — from life-changing medical, educational and disaster relief to community fundraisers and cultural events that bring people from all walks of life together for fun. Helping others goes beyond building a home or donating a kidney — though many of you have done just that. Helping others can also mean creating experiences that leave positive memories for a lifetime.

We hope you find inspiration to make a difference.

Ask yourself: What if?  

What if you could help mothers and their babies stay healthy?

Countless Kiwanis members have done just that through their work on The Eliminate Project, a partnership between Kiwanis International and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. This deadly disease kills 30,000 babies and a significant number of women each year. When mothers-to-be receive vaccinations, their immunity protects their babies during childbirth. What if you’re the one to help save babies by raising funds to immunize moms? All the women and children in these photos are safe, thanks to Kiwanis and The Eliminate Project.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
In Somalia, a woman and child wait for immunizations. The Eliminate Project works to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus around the world.
Madagascar may be one of the poorest countries in the world, but outreach and education are bringing big change.

What if you could help people living with disabilities?

Simple gestures can bring a world of positive change and opportunity to people’s lives, especially those living with disabilities. What many of us take for granted, others can only dream about. Things like riding a bike. Fishing. Skiing. Interacting with others. So whether you raise funds to donate a robot to a classroom of kids with autism or you create a life-changing memory for someone, every little part you play in the experience changes the world for someone else. The joy felt by those you’re helping is obvious on their faces. The joy felt by you is obvious in your heart.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
Camper Ellen Venditte gets ready to fish at Kamp Kiwanis in upstate New York.
Using robots with special needs students
Robots help special needs students, thanks to a Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant.
Kiwanis Club donates theraputic tricycles in Tennessee 9/7/14.
Therapeutic Tricycle Project in Tellico Village, TN

What if you could help people affected by war or unrest?

In Ukraine, children were on the front lines during unrest with Russia. But Kiev Kiwanians were there, offering an Easter egg hunt as a way to bring happiness, fun and maybe a bit of normalcy to the kids’ lives. In Germany, as refugees shared their stories of turmoil back home in Syria and Afghanistan, Kiwanians were there, offering German language lessons, housing assistance, education, work and other needs. In Ontario, a family of seven arrived from Syria after living in a refugee camp for four years. Kiwanis was there, working with other organizations to connect them to housing and additional resources. And in Wisconsin, Kiwanians dedicate their lives to welcoming new neighbors, no matter where they’re from or where they’re going.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
KI 0316 Germany refugees
German Kiwanians help refugees displaced by war.
A Kiwanis property provides decades of shelter to those in need.

What if you could help people help themselves?

For some people, no project or dream is too big. It’s great to give clothing to someone who needs it, but what if you taught them how to make their own? It’s great to feed the homeless, but what if you not only fed them but also gave them a place to shower and receive medical help, financial assistance, legal advice and help finding a job? Every little bit helps, and sometimes that little bit can change someone’s life forever. In Vanuatu, a small island chain in the South Pacific, women learn the art of sewing through a project created and organized by Kiwanians from New Zealand (left). The women use these new skills to become self-sufficient, giving them the opportunity to make their own money by selling clothing and cloth items in markets, especially to the tourists who visit the islands. In New Orleans (below), Kiwanis members from more than a dozen clubs work on numerous projects, many focused on improving the lives of the homeless. To these Kiwanians in New Zealand and New Orleans, the focus isn’t on just handing something out and moving on. The focus is on changing lives by giving people the tools to help them help themselves.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
In New Orleans, Kiwanians serve meals at Lantern Light, a mission serving the homeless.
Threads Across the Pacific project helps Vanuatu women become self-sufficient.

What if you could reach children wherever they are?

Children everywhere deserve to be happy, healthy, safe and loved. And they deserve to learn. Many Kiwanis clubs have made it their mission to go where the children are to teach them new things. To encourage them to grow, be curious and play. To give them advice and teach the value of service and leadership. Some of those projects have taken us to farms to learn about animals. Some projects reach kids in laundromats, where reading books is a way to pass the time. And sometimes, Kiwanis members give life advice in unlikely places, such as the barber chair.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
Worlds Largest Laundromat_2018-Laundroma-5969_Alyssa Schukar Photography
Kiwanians teach reading skills at World’s Largest Laundromat in Berwyn, Illinois.
Kiwanis Kids Free Fun Day_Sarnia Ontario_by Elaine Cromie_145
Children get up close to farm animals as part of the Ontario Kiwanis Kids Free Day in Sarnia, Ontario.
Frankfort, Kentucky, barber Moe Shands gives TJ Shuck, 8, a haircut and career advice.

What if you could help children learn something new?

We all have something to give. We all have stories to share and lives to touch. We all have the power to pass on knowledge we’ve gained, and many people do this through service clubs. For the past 100 years, Kiwanis members have given their time and talent to helping children learn. And when they can’t do the teaching themselves, they create projects to bring in experts who can. There are countless Kiwanis programs that teach children the value of science, culture, art and education. From furnishing classrooms in Jamaica to rewarding musical talent in Canada to introducing sumo culture in Japan to giving young hospital patients and recent patients a fun fishing day in the United States, Kiwanis teaches kids.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
KI 0118 japan sumo
Children in Japan learn about the cultural history of sumo wrestling.
St. James Retirement Basic School, Jamaica
A Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant supports the St. James Retirement Basic School, Jamaica.
From Vancouver to Newfoundland, Kiwanis festivals celebrate Canada’s best musicians.
Kiwanis clubs help persons with special needs and their families enjoy the life aquatic.

What if you could help today’s teens become tomorrow’s leaders?

Is there anything better than helping kids grow and become successful? Kiwanis members don’t think so. That’s exactly why they dedicate countless hours to working alongside youth in Kiwanis programs. Kiwanians sponsor clubs — K-Kids, Builders Clubs, Circle K, Key Clubs — giving young people the opportunity to lead through service. Many people credit their time in a Kiwanis youth program with making them who they are today, providing them opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise  and opening doors that might have been closed. Harold Ekeh (top right) was a Key Clubber. He credits a strong support system for his impressive academic achievement of getting accepted to all eight Ivy League schools. “I want to be able to say I made a difference in my community and made a difference in my world, and that’s what Key Club really inspired me to do,” he said. “If you see something wrong in your community, you have the power to change that.”

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
The power of Key Leader transforms students into tomorrow’s leaders.
Harold Ekeh credits the leadership skills learned while in Key Club with being accepted to all 8 Ivy League schools.
Life in the Clouds
Teens participate in a medical mission in Jutiapa, Honduras

What if you could give children a safe place to play and grow?

Every kid has a job to do, and that’s to play. As adults, our job is to keep them safe and make sure they all have somewhere to do their most important work. Kiwanis clubs have just the project. There are playgrounds built by Kiwanis, community events such as family runs and festivals, sledding in California (Kiwanians bring their own snow!) and chess classes to stretch the mind and make new friends. If you’ve ever stood at the bottom of the slide on a playground, arms outstretched, encouraging a young child to be brave and go for it — and they do? That smile is payday.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
A family-friendly 5K race is one part of the annual Saint Marys Rock Shrimp Festival.
2018.06.19 Stand for Children Day-0522
Kids have fun while parents learn at a free community event.
Texas Kiwanians teach chess to kids who learn strategy along with some important life lessons.
2018.06.19 Stand for Children Day-0702
Kids get to try out musical instruments at Stand for Children Day, an annual event in Bowling Green, Kentucky,
Canadian Kiwanians sponsor a two-acre town simulation that teaches children about home and bike safety.

What if you could help when it’s needed most?

Goodness comes from the heart, especially when hard times hit. It’s our instinct to reach out when others are hurting, when they’re in trouble, when disaster strikes. A tornado hit Henryville, Indiana, and Kiwanis responded. Floods hit the U.S. Midwest and Kiwanis was there. But it’s not only after disaster strikes that Kiwanians jump into action. They’re in action all the time, ready whenever there is need.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
KI 0812 CA dog CREDIT
Builders Club members raise money for a new bullet-resistant vest for officer Berko, the Los Gatos, California police dog.


Kiwanis Club of Atlantic in Hamburg
Kiwanians take thousands of meals to flooded Iowa town

What if you could make your community famous?

Year after year you’ve attended your community’s festival. You’ve ridden rides and eaten the cotton candy and visited the cow barn. But what if you joined forces with the organizers to make this festival a bigger success? There are thousands of Kiwanis clubs behind some of the grandest events held all over the world — and you might not even know it. There’s a cool jazz festival in Switzerland and a hot pepper festival in Louisiana. Texans put on cultural fiesta, and Pennsylvanians organize a yummy chocolate festival. All of these and more. You could help make the fun happen!

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
KI 1213 PA chocolate
Tasting eclairs during the Lititz, Pennsylvania, Chocolate Walk.
kiwanis fiesta 2016368
Colors swirl and music blares at a long-running and highly successful Kiwanis cultural festival.
Kiwanians love to eat, so food events are a natural for club fundraising.
Not just peppers, this red-hot fundraiser also showcases the talents of local food and craft vendors, musicians and sponsors.
Nico (2) from Niedernhall at the entrance of the "Big Top" tent.
German clubs raise Kiwanis’ public profile with a successful signature project. Welcome to the circus!
Reenactment of The Battle of Stoney Creek
Reenacting Canada’s Battle of Stoney Creek.
New Orleans-style music takes center stage at a fundraising festival in Switzerland.

What if you could make a positive impact globally?

Everyone needs help sometimes. And while most of our Kiwanis clubs direct their service close to home, there also are opportunities to help people far away. Kiwanis members in Montana fund a school and orphanage 8,400 miles away in Uganda. A Kiwanis member from Washington created a community health project in the highlands of Honduras. And Kiwanis International’s Global Campaign for Children is eliminating iodine deficiency disorders — the single greatest cause of preventable mental disability — by iodizing salt. Families are healthier thanks to Kiwanis.

[Click on the individual photos to read more about the projects]
2014 HondurasDSC_7211
Beauty and tragedy live side-by-side in the Honduran highlands.
Montana Kiwanians help fund a school in Uganda.
Kiwanis partners with UNICEF to fight iodine deficiency disorder.

This story originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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