Chris Iles became a member in 1970 and over the years he has been involved in some major Lions projects. A proactive member of Gillingham Lions Club, Chris lives in the village of Hempstead in Kent. His efforts have not only benefited his local community, but also many people across the UK and overseas. He actively supports our annual Shoebox Appeal for children and the needy in the Gomel Region of Belarus, and also the Lions International Blood Research Appeal (LIBRA) which raises funds to help tackle blood cancers and other blood disorders. He is also a Trustee and Grant administrator for a £3,000,000 project to build a new Lions International Eye Centre in Accra in Ghana. A joint project between Moorfields Eye Hospital and Lions Clubs International.
As a committed Lions Club member, Chris has served as a Lions Zone Chairman, Regional Chairman, Assistant District Secretary, Youth Outreach Chairman, District Sergeant at Arms, Vice District Governor, District Governor and Chairman of the Council of Governors for Lions Clubs International in the British Isles and Ireland. We recently spoke to Chris to find out more about his voluntary work for the Shoebox Appeal and just how rewarding it is to him.
Why are you so passionate about supporting the Shoebox Appeal?
My enjoyment comes from the sure knowledge that I will have improved the lives of thousands of people in need, in a very poor country. I became a Trustee of the Lions Belarus Trust in 2006 and I took over the running of the Shoebox Appeal in 2008. The Trust supports the South East Region, the Gomel Region, of Belarus because it is not only the poorest area of Belarus but was also the area worst affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station Explosion in 1986. Today the people living there are very poor and deserve our support, which is administered on the ground in Gomel by the Gomel Lions Club
How have you been involved in the Shoebox Appeal?
I served as Appeal Manager for a number of years and acted as the initial contact with Gomel Lions Club Members in discussions regarding special requests for people, schools, orphanages and communities in need. In more recent years I decided to hand over the role and last year I assisted the new Appeal Manager throughout the process of appealing for donations of money and goods, collecting sorting and packing the goods and creating the necessary shipping documentation.
How much time do you dedicate to the Shoebox Appeal?
Each year that I have been involved, the Shoebox Appeal tends to take up my time during the summer months. I devote many hours each week from the beginning of July to the end of September. There is always an exciting six week period that I commit to the project.
How rewarding is your role?
A regular and rewarding appeal like Shoebox brings out the best in all of our members and all those who turn out to help us. I particularly enjoy the atmosphere which surrounds the sorting and packing team and we have a wonderful relationship with the Lions Club Members in Gomel who do such a fantastic job distributing over 10 tonnes of goods to the needy on our behalf. Enjoyment comes with the satisfaction of a job well done.
Do you need more volunteers?
We always need an extra pair of hands! Anyone can help, both Lions and non-Lions. We rely on local Lions Clubs to coordinate goods and donations and bring them to our warehouse where we sort and pack the goods. People can donate to our costs through the Lions Giving Website and if they have goods they wish to donate, (no flammable liquids, no foodstuffs and no literature or videos please) they can contact their local Lions Club.
For those living near our sorting and packing facility wherever it is each year, we would of course be delighted to see them there in August/September time, to assist but the best way to get involved physically is to offer your support to your local Lions Club or to offer to collect items which they can then bring to the warehouse. Warehouse location can vary because we rely on donated premises for 3 months of the year and the generosity of the landlords.