Lions Clubs International award the Head of State Medal to Nelson Mandela

Malcolm Newslands presents the award to Sello Hatang, Chief Executive at the Nelson Mandela Foundation

On 22 July 2014 a delegation of Lions Clubs International members from districts across the country presented the Lions’ Head of State Medal to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the formal custodian of Mr Mandela’s personal papers.

A close up view of the Lions' Head of State medal

The medal is the highest recognition an International President of Lion Clubs International can bestow on a non-Lion member.

It acknowledges selfless humanitarian service, outstanding leadership and the promotion of world peace.

“Our immediate past International President, Barry Palmer, recognised these great qualities in Nelson Mandela. It is my privilege and honour to present you with this medal on behalf of Mr Palmer,” said Mike Newlands, immediate past Council Chairperson of Lions South Africa as he presented the medal to Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive, Sello Hatang.

“He was a man who endured extreme hardship and humiliation to achieve his dream. He was an inspiration to all members of Lions Clubs International who volunteer selflessly to serve the less fortunate within their communities and beyond,” said Malcolm Johnston, immediate past District Governor of District 410B.

“The Lions of South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland join many millions of mourners in saluting a great humanitarian and leader.”

Committed to eradicating preventable and curable blindness

Sello Hatang holds the Gift of Sight statue

The Lions organisation began in Chicago, Illinois in 1917. Today the global service-based organisation’s 1.35-million members work within communities to raise awareness about blindness, and to help eliminate preventable and curable blindness.

In 2009 former US president, and member of the Elders, Jimmy Carter, dedicated the Gift of Sight statue to Lions Clubs International at their headquarters in Oakbrook, Illinois in recognition of Lions Clubs International’s ongoing efforts to combat preventable blindness.

The bronze statue represents a child leading a man who lost his sight due to river blindness.

River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is a parasitic infection of the eyes caused by small black flies that breed in flowing water. It is a leading cause of preventable blindness, yet remains the fate of many Africans.

Presenting the statue to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Newlands said: “The Lions are dedicated to eradicating preventable and curable blindness. We are committed to working with blind people in their communities to further alleviate their daily plight.”

Lions Clubs International members Malcolm Johnston, Dave Cousins and Rob Fowler