What is Kiwanis like in Latin America?

Aug 16, 2011

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I’ve had the privilege of working with a region of the world where Kiwanis is so vibrant and alive. With clubs from Mexico to Ecuador, Latin America is a region where the needs are never-ending, but a region where Kiwanians’ passion is just as profound with an intense commitment to make their nations better places to live—through Kiwanis.

Have you ever wondered what does Kiwanis look like in other regions of the world? While sharing the Objects and principles of our organization, Kiwanis in Latin America has its own personality. Below are some examples: 

Service projects: From medical and dental missions, reading to patients in pediatric hospitals, recognizing Terrific Kids, building and/ or running preschools, supporting abused children, giving scholarships, building homes for families in need, celebrating holiday parties, building medical facilities to providing parenting workshops, Kiwanians in Latin America are all about hands-on service.

More often than not, Kiwanians use their personal talents to help their community. Doctors volunteer in themedical missions, lawyers and dieticians provide workshops to low-income parents, coaches support football (soccer) teams—all giving the best of themselves to help children.

I’d say that about 90 percent of the clubs in the region have at least one Young Children: Priority One service project or program, truly making a difference in their world.

Fundraisers: By far the most popular fundraising event is bingo, or should I say, dancing bingo. (Latinos are all about fun; so, just a plain bingo usually doesn’t cut it.) Other popular fundraisers include raffles, artistic events and marathon-type activities.

Club meetings: Usually scheduled in the evenings, Kiwanis meetings range from the more formal gathering at a social club or hotel with meal included, to those held in the less formal setting of a Kiwanis-owned clubhouse, to a wide majority that meet at members’ homes.

Growth: Kiwanis membership is relationship-based and fueled by service. I can testify of numerous Kiwanis clubs that have sprung up from medical missions and other projects that occur outside the sponsoring club’s community.

Conventions: Fun, fun, fun. These conventions are well attended with about 20 percent of the membership present. Of course, there are opportunities for members to receive education, see their friends and elect officers—all within a celebration spirit. On Saturday evenings, organizers arrange their fraternity party, where jeans and casual attire are typical. You shouldn’t expect to be in bed before midnight. Sunday evening, the closing session is a very formal event, ending with an orchestra. And be prepared to dance all night long.

I can for sure say that Kiwanis in the Latin American region is all about service, fellowship and fun, staying true to what our organization is about. But it operates in a way that’s also true to regional culture. How does all of this relate to your Kiwanis experience? To the way Kiwanis operates in your area of the world?

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