In this high- tech era, people can learn about global affairs on the Internet at home. But no matter how informative the internet delivers, it cannot compare to one’s real touch and experience in the culture and custom of other countries, nice smiles and warm hugs from the locals and the taste of local cuisines.
Being the largest service organization in the world, ‘Lions Clubs International LCI’ provides various services in different regions and around the globe. Youth development is one of its major services. Since 1961, Lions International Youth Exchange Camp programme, simply known as ‘Youth Exchange Camp', has become one of the key services of the Lions Clubs International. It provides a few weeks of exchange opportunities for thousands of young people aged 15 to 21 from different countries, ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds every year. This helps to widen their international horizons and improve their communication skills with the goal of facilitating cultural exchange and integration.
Since year 2000, Lions Clubs International District 303 – Hong Kong & Macao, China has selected and sponsored outstanding students to join exchange camps overseas through English essay contests. During the early stage, there was no permanent institutional support. It was only in 2001-2002 that an exchange camp was set up by hosts from Hong Kong and Guangdong to welcome young people overseas. This was criticized by overseas receiving Lions Clubs. In view of this, some enthusiastic Lions set up the ‘Lions Youth Exchange Foundation Limited’ on 27 October 2005. It is a permanent establishment to provide continuous support and development for this programme in D303. The whole process of organizing, selecting and holding of the exchange camp programme during the summer from July to August is spanned over two Lionistic years.
The Lions International Youth Exchange Scholarship Essay Competition is held every year. The themes are mainly on environmental protection and sustainable development. All secondary four to six students in Hong Kong are welcome to participate. Top ten winners will receive full sponsorship to take part in overseas exchange camp programme. Apart from the winning students, D303 also encourages Leos and Lions’ children of appropriate age to apply for this programme.
The overseas young campers will stay in their hosting families provided by Lions. This enables them to experience the lifestyles and local culture in Hong Kong. Lions Youth Camp and Exchange Committee also arranges visits and tours in Hong Kong, Macau and China for the campers. This helps them to have better understanding to the areas.
The success of the programme depends ultimately on the full support of Youth Camp and Exchange Committee of District 303, Lions Youth Exchange Foundation Limited and its Board of Directors, enthusiastic Lions, Leos, sponsors and co-organizers in all aspects.