‘We’re training youths, especially young women, to become future leaders’

Lion Chinyelu Samuel-Johnson

Lion Chinyelu Samuel-Johnson was recently installed as the first female president of the Anthony Village Emerald Lions Club. She tells TOBI AWODIPE about becoming the first woman to become president and why it took so long to happen amongst other issues

For the first time in 101years, Lions Club International has a female president. Why did it take so long for it to happen? I believe it took this long because the Lions Club started as a gentlemen’s club, thus was male dominated. Lions Club started in 1917 but the Lioness club started in 1975. Women became Lions globally just in 1987. The first female to be an International Director was in 1999. If you do the math, you’ll see that Lions have come a long way. Lions club came to Nigeria in 1964 but we got our first female District Governor 33 years later. It has taken a while but we have made good progress. This new international president is advocating more women in membership and in leadership hence her new initiative, “The New Voices,” which is basically an advocacy for more women in membership and leadership. It is also worthy of note that this year, Nigeria has taken another giant stride. The number one Lion in Nigeria (the multiple council chairperson) is a woman.

How and why did you start this charter club?
The need to have a wider reach and take service to every nook and cranny of our community necessitated the bifurcation of my previous club into three other clubs. I believe the more we are, the wider the reach. Seven people from my old club moved and got new members to join and form the Anthony Village Emerald Lions Club.

What was your main objective when starting out?
To take service to all corners of Anthony Village and environs since Lions club is a community-based association and to find people of like minds to join because the more the members, the more the people are served and more ideas for new projects shared. Service to humanity is what we have been after from the onset. The mission of this charter club is to create and foster a spirit of friendship amongst the people of our community and our vision is organizing community-based activities by carrying out a thorough needs assessment of what will best benefit the community, thereby touching as much lives positively as we can.

What are your long-term goals?
I would say it is to establish a lasting relationship with the community we are in and to train the youths, especially women, to become future leaders through our youth empowerment programs as well as bring succour to the needy and continue to fight preventable blindness.

What type of individuals are you targeting as members and why?
Individuals with a passion for service; who are courageous enough to part with funds that will not benefit them or theirs in anyway. To be a Lion, you require passion for selfless service because Lions club will require your time, your talent, your resources and your intellect.

What are the biggest mistakes local NGOs make and how do you intend to avoid them?
The greatest mistake is inviting people who are neither prepared nor have the passion to serve humanity, but who rather joined the club for the wrong reasons (either to socialise or travel). My club intends to carefully invite members of like minds who join the club for the sole purpose of serving humanity. I am a goal-oriented individual who believes that what is worth doing is worth doing well. I take delight in putting smiles on the faces of every deserving individual irrespective of class, tribe and religion. I have the passion for service. I have vast experience in banking having worked in several units of banks for over 20 years. I currently work as a Zonal Service Manager in a new generation bank. I am a mother, widowed at the age of 35 and have single-handedly brought up three awesome children that are now young adults. I love mentoring, teaching and counseling and I cherish relationships a great deal. I am very proactive by nature. I hold a BA degree in Linguistics and MBA in Human resources. Most importantly, I love and serve God.

What motivated you to go into a life of charity?
The need to live out my passion to the glory of God by serving humanity.

How will your organization deal with the failing economy to run this club financially?
Whoever will give, will give, and what we do is show them that this is a credible platform to give to by making our club visible through the projects and activities we carry out. We account for every fund received.

How do you plan to make your club stand out amongst others?
We intend to choose the best-suited people and also equip them via training and retraining. We will carry out outstanding projects and activities. I will also foster unity amongst the members because together, we serve our community better.

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