Unlike some exchange programs, the Lions program does not involve tourism, academic studies, or employment. Instead, the Lions youth exchange program provides young people with the opportunity to:
§ Participate in the everyday life in another culture;
§ Reside with a host family;
§ Serve as an ambassador for international understanding;
§ Participate in local customs
How the Program Works
The success of the youth exchange program is the result of cooperation among many people. The program begins when:
§ A young person requests sponsorship from a local Lion or Lioness club to become a Lions youth exchangee or;
§ A Lion or Lioness club seeks young people to participate as youth exchangees. The sponsoring club can set their own specific additional requirements such as: speech or essay contests, community service hours, recommendations from local schools, etc.
§ Generally, Lions youth exchange visits are two to four weeks in duration. Many youth exchangees also participate in one-week (or longer) Lions international youth camps.
§ Organized by Lions around the world, the Lions International Youth Camp Program provides young people (ages 16-22) with the opportunity to meet and share cultural viewpoints. A listing of camps can be found at this web site.
General Participant Requirements
Participation in the Lions International Youth Exchange program is open to all young people who are:
§ 16 (17 preferred) – 21 years of age
§ Sponsored by a Lions or Lioness club;
§ Capable of representing their sponsoring club, community, state and country;
§ Willing to accept the customs of another culture.
§ Of good character and open minds
When a Lion or Lioness club agrees to sponsor a youth, it accepts responsibility for:
§ Explaining the objectives and regulations of the program to the youth and his or her parents;
§ Preparing the young person for the cross-cultural experience;
§ Contacting the district Lions youth exchange chairperson (who works with both the sponsoring and hosting Lions club, district, or multiple district) to coordinate travel and home-stay arrangements.
§ Exchanges can be arranged with hosting Lions clubs, districts, or multiple districts in more than 180 countries.
Sponsoring a Youth Exchange
The sponsoring club is responsible for screening and selecting young people who apply for the program. It informs them and their parents or guardians of the objectives and regulations of the program and sees to it that adequate insurance is obtained to cover all contingencies during the visit, including travel time.
Success or failure of an exchange depends upon the young person sent abroad. Rejecting an applicant is not easy. However, it is better to reject an applicant than to sponsor someone who is improperly motivated or not mature enough to handle living in another country and their cultural differences.
The following steps should be followed when sponsoring an exchange:
§ Establish your clubs’ criteria for selecting a candidate.
§ Obtain the names of young people through schools, friends, Leo, Lions or Lioness clubs.
§ Distribute applications to potential candidates. (Forms are available from your district Youth Exchange Chairperson).
§ Make sure the applicant understands the objectives of the program.
§ Interview the youth to determine his/her motives and interests.
§ After the applicant has been selected, send three (3) copies of the application to your district youth exchange chairperson who will coordinate the exchange and locate host families.
§ Once a host family has been located, the youth and host family should begin communicating.
§ Be certain the applicant has a passport and visa, if necessary, along with sufficient insurance.
§ Make all necessary travel arrangements.
§ The sponsoring club may, at their own discretion, provide the youth with club pins and/or banners for the host Lions or family.
§ Obtain whatever other items that are available from the Multiple District youth exchange committee to give to the youth.
§ Invite the youth to your club meeting, upon his/her return to share the experience of the trip.
How are Exchanges Financed?
The sponsoring club, or the youths’ family, or a combination of both pays the cost of International travel and insurance. Financial arrangements are strictly up to the sponsoring club. There is no set cast in concrete method.
Costs incurred during the stay in a host country are the responsibility of the hosting club. The host family generally provides room and board. However, for special excursions, entertainment, or restaurant meals the host club and family determine which expenses will be re-reimbursed by the host club.
The visitor should have personal funds for gifts, telephone calls, souvenirs and incidentals.
Who can be a Host Family?
Any family, after screening by the host club, can be a host family. The qualified family will be open-minded, able to communicate with young people, and willing to welcome a visitor from another country into its home as a member. The host family does not have to be a Lion, Lioness or Leo club family.
Households without children or headed by elderly couples is not a problem. Neighbors and relatives can be called upon to share the visitor. Another solution could be choosing an older visitor or pair of visitors to solve that problem. Additionally, the visitor does not require a bedroom of his or her own. Sharing a bedroom with other family members of the same sex can sometimes be beneficial.
The host family should involve the visitor in its daily activities. The host family should not give the visitor preferential treatment. Instead, the host family should treat the visitor like any other member of the family. Family chores should be shared with the visitor. However, the visitor should not be used as a babysitter or char person.
Host family applications can be gotten from the district Youth Exchange Chairperson or at Host Family Application