The year was 1976. In the early part of this historic year, an idea was toyed around by a few enterprising men of Sungai Petani. An idea that was conceived and took roots way back in 1917 in Chicago, U.S.A. of fellow men banding together to foster goodwill and at the same time addressing dire community needs. Lionism, as the founder Melvin Jones espoused, was a new idea to Sungai Petani then, having established itself as Lions clubs in the major towns in Malaysia.
Encouraged by the members of the Lions Club of Georgetown, the entrepreneurs pressed on with their idea which had become their vision. The next few months saw a hive of activities that were collectively directed at garnering support for the formation of an association that would help propagate the ideals of Lionism as a service organisation.
The efforts of these men were rewarded by the birth of an entity whose time had come.
The Lions Club of Sungai Petani was chartered on the 20th day of May, 1976. Twenty seven men from the business community and the civil service became the charter members of the Club under the dynamic leadership of it's Charter President Lion Beh Heng Seong. Collectively, they had created history.
The early years were periods of learning and understanding. Knowledge of the ways of Lionism could be gained mainly by interaction. Rightly, Lion Beh Heng Seong had focussed his efforts on fellowship with clubs at home and abroad. On the international front, he was responsible for creating a sisterhood of alliance with the Lions Club of Hatyai, Thailand. This bond made on 1st day of April, 1978 is as strong now as ever.
Community programmes were not forgotten. One of the first major projects was the construction of a basketball court in Sekolah Menengah Che' Tom, Sg. Petani. A plea was made by the school authorities, and the Club responded obligingly. Today the court remains as a testimony of the Club's dynamism.
The diverse communal activities of the Club began to attract the attention of the local authorities. During the presidency of Lion Lim Eng Chye, the District Office requested the Club to build a skating rink in the heart of the town as a recreation facility for youths. This, Lion Lim Eng Chye and his members did, and completed construction of the rink in 1980 at a cost of over RM30,000.
Like most organisations at an infant stage, the Club too experienced problems with membership, especially after the departure of Lion Lim Eng Chye to Penang in early 1981. Fortunately, the year also saw the entry of Lion Hardev Singh from the Lions Club of Baling. His seniority and experience proved much useful as secretary of the club for the years to come. With him too came a new breed of service minded men, most of whom led the Club to even greater heights.
First of these dynamic lions was Lion Dr Joseph Arul. He led the Club for two consecutive terms of office starting from July, 1981. His office was marked by a focus on activities designated by Lions International and District 308-B. The Club launched projects such as diabetes, hypertension and eye screening, blood donation drives, anti-dadah campaigns and financing institutions that cared for handicapped children and the aged. In fact, in 1983, the Club donated RM10,000 towards the building fund of a school for mentally retarded children. The Club was the highest single donor then, and the school, known as the Rumah Amal Sungai Petani, is now a reality.
It was also during Lion Dr Joseph Arul's tenure that the Leo Club was initiated for school children as an official programme of the Club. The Leo Club of Sekolah Menengah Che' Tom was founded in September 1982, and today has been voted one of the best Leo Clubs in the country.
In July 1983, Lion Rahman Ahmad was installed as the president of the Club. His term of office, saw an increase in activities that were diverse qnd relevent to the needs of the community. It was a successful year by most Lionistic standards.
In July 1984, Lion Tamil Mani became the president and held office for two consecutive terms. In January, 1985, the Club under his chairmanship organised a mammoth anti-dadah campaign over a two day period that was the first of it's kind in Kedah. Dadah abuse had then become the scourge of the country, and the District Officer of Kuala Muda and all the heads of local authorities were only too glad to participate actively in the organisation of the campaign. The campaign was aimed at schoolchildren, juvenile delinquents, parents and the general public.
Additionally, Lion Tamil Mani's office is best remembered for the formation of the Lioness Club of Sungai Petani. This was another official programme of the Lions Clubs the world over, and aimed to enlist the energy and expertise of the womenfolk. This has now been superceded by entry of women directly into Lions Clubs as Lions in their own right. The Lioness Club of Sungai Petani became a reality on 28th March, 1986 and served for many years.
From 1984 onwards, new blood was injected into the membership of the Club. These members brought fresh ideas and set new trails for the Club. Lion Palusamy, who took over the presidency in July 1986, was a case in point. He sought novel ways of fund raising and club management, and was always an inspiration to members. The Club prospered under him.
Lion Ganga Naidu who was installed as president in 1987 was also an inspiration. The series of programmes embarked upon by him were well received by the community and institutions. The Club had then etched a name for itself, so much so that appeals for aid came even from residents away from Sg. Petani. Lion Naidu was always willing to oblige, when finances permitted.
In 1988, when Lion Prem Kumar took office, he urged the Club to pay more importance to institutions or bodies that cared for larger sections of the population. The policy change resulted in funds being diverted to the Vallalar Mandram Orphanage in Sg. Petani, the Old Folk's Home in Bedong and rural schools, which got little external aid. Over RM8,000 was given away to relieve the plight of the poor.
Lion Redzzuan Abdullah in 1989 extended the scope of aid to include estate kindergartens which were in need of books, chairs and tables. The Lionesses and Leos, who were financially strong, complemented the efforts of the Lions Club in service to the community.
Because of a void in succession, Lion Prem Kumar assumed office of president for a second term in 1990. He continued with the fine work of the previous presidents with the knowledge and experience he had gained earlier.
During the years 1986 to 1990, the respective presidents are also remembered for strengthening club membership and administration. With increased numbers of members and strong administration and finance, the Club was able to see through many of the regular service programmes Lions Clubs all over are well known for.
In 1991, the Club found a new dynamism and direction when Lion Dr. Joginder Singh was elected to take over the helm in July. Hardworking and ambitious, he set a dizzying pace for all members. Within a span of five months, he had completed programmes that would normally have taken a year to accomplish. About the biggest project for the year was the Club's adoption of the Spastic Children's Centre in Sg. Petani. This would entail relocating the Centre to a permanent site, training teachers, purchasing a vehicle and financing their overheads. The Club was responsible for assisting in raising funds to accomplish the identified objects.
The Club not only attracted the attention of the media, but also the attention of the local and State authorities, who had come in with strong support. The response and cooperation is symbiotic in relationship.
The year 1991 was another milestone in the history of the Club. The Club celebrated it's fifteenth anniversary in grand style. KDYMM Tuanku Sultan Kedah and KDYMM Tuanku Sultanah graced the occasion. It was on this day that the Club conferred the Lions Highest Order of Merit, the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award to KDYMM Sultan Kedah. This carved another notch in the history of the Club as the first service club to confer an award to KDYMM Sultan Kedah. The date 14th December 1991 is indeed significant and auspicious in the history of the Club.
In the last decade of the twentieth century the Club continued to serve the community by carrying out International and District designated projects as well as responding with magnanimity whenever local communities were afflicted by calamities, and individuals found themselves in dire distress. These, as well as education and health programmes, became regular projects. Lion Palusamy (1992/93), Lion Han Ah Keat (1993/94), Lion Satchitanantham (1994/95), Lion Tamil Mani (1995/96), Lion Dr. N S Sanan (1996/97) and Lion Jegadeeson Thavasu (1997/98) helmed the Club and served with distinction throughout the 1990's.
At the turn of the century, another memorable event took place. Several members left the Club to form a new Lions Club to further expand the reach of Lionism in the District of Kuala Muda. Since its inception, the Lions Club of Kuala Muda, under the guidance of Dr. N S Sanan has steadily grown in strength and is serving the community with great fervour and dedication.
The 21st century saw veteran Lion Hardev Singh leading the Lions Club of Sg. Petani for three consecutive terms (1998/2001) with the avowed purpose of rejuvenating the Club by bringing in new blood. When he finished his term the Club boasted several young and dynamic members. Lion Low Boo Chong, who presided over the Club for two terms (2002/04), is one of them. It was during his term that the eye-screening project was extended to other schools and has become a priority project every year. Lion Low Boo Chong continues to play an active role and is also a major fundraiser for the Club.
In 2004, the presidential baton was passed to Lion Chan Kok Huat, an indefatigable worker who served the Club for two sucessive terms. Together with the Club's secretary, the quiet but able Lion Roger Dunkley, they made waves in District 308B2 with their imaginative projects. They teamed up with Puteri Umno, Giat Mara students and Rela to build a new home for a very helpless old lady who lived in a dilapidated house in rural Baling, Kedah. When the 2004 tsunami struck the coastal village of Kota Kuala Muda, Lion Chan and his team were there acting as coordinators between government agencies and the District Governors of 308B2 and 308B1. School uniforms, school bags, 500 bicycles and books worth thousands of Ringgit were distributed to children affected by the disaster.
It was also during Lion Chan's term that the Club's thirtieth anniversary was celebrated with a fund raising charity golf tournament and grand dinner. Mooted by Lion Tamil Mani years earlier, the golf tounament was a feature and prestigious event in the annual calendar for several years.
In 2006, President Lion K. Nagiah started the eye-screening project for schoolchildren - giving away free spectacles to those who could not afford them. Based on needs, he found this project immensely worthwhile, as good eyesight is important to a child's educational growth. Because of his strong belief and conviction, he brought the Club to focus on it as a core project. The Leos of SMK Che' Tom too embraced it as their own core project under his recommendation.
Throughout Lion Nagiah's two presidential terms, and until today, many schoolchildren have greatly benefited from the eye-screening and the donation of hundreds of pairs of spectacles.
In 2008, it was Lion Ranjit Singh's turn to lead the Club. A senior Lion with grassroots experience, Lion Ranjit began to build upon the good work created by his predecessors. Eyesight remained an important focus, with fundraising targeted towards that. The Club is now well-known for it's "I Care For Eye Care" car sticker campaign which continues to bring in funds.
It was during Lion Ranjit's time that the plight of the poor in rural areas took on an added significance. In 2009, we came across Kelab Pendidikan dan Kebajikan Puncak, a rural voluntary club based in Merbok, struggling with a sincere aim of eradicating poverty through education empowerment. While initially donating cash (and guitars), we helped the Kelab organise the World Children's Day at Bujang Valley, a momentous event that attracted children from all over the world. This was in November 2009, and carried out with support from local NGOs and Metro Specialist Hospital.
In the past the Club channeled its resources to two themes: people (primarily schoolchildren) and places (rural areas). Now we have added another - the environment - the protection of which is the work of all humanity.
In early 2010, the environmental initiative was begun by helping to spread the message of converting household organic waste into bio-enzymes for use as fertilizers and detergents. Then, demonstrations were held in schools and colleges on the methodologies involved.
Under President V. Palusamy, environmental protection was given a huge boost through the planting of 5,000 mangrove seedlings at the Merbok river estuary in June 2011. Officiated by Her Highness Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz, the project was a labour of love between Kelab Puncak, Kelab Sungai Petani, Metro Specialist Hospital, Lions Club of Sungai Petani and 200 local and overseas children. The combined "Love Our River" campaign and "International Friendship Camp" were a resounding success, raising RM20,000 to fund the educational and community projects of Kelab Pendidikan dan Kebajikan Puncak.
The association is both non-political and non-sectarian. Lions are now best known for their sight-related programs, including SightFirst, the world's largest blindness prevention program.