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Val Clarke named Ambassador of Goodwill

From left: Erle Barrett, Past District Governor N3; Brad Clarke; Val Clarke; Shane Budgell, Present District Governor for N3. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Val Clarke is synonymous with the Lions Club in Port aux Basques, and her efforts and dedication over the years have recently been recognized in a significant way by Lions International.

“I was awarded the Ambassador of Goodwill from Lions International, and that’s the highest award that a member can get in Lions International,” said Clarke. “It’s a big award and not many have earned that distinction over the years.”

Clarke added that being an Ambassador of Goodwill carries with it a greater responsibility.

“As Lions, we are called upon in our founding documents to promote international understanding and harmony and to cast aside our perspectives and embrace diversity and inclusion. It symbolizes all your humanitarian efforts in trying to serve, which is what Lions is all about, internationally as well as in our own communities,” said Clarke. “As Lions we believe that new ideas and perspectives will move our organization into the second century of service. That’s where we want to be, and promote global ideas of acceptance and cooperation.”

According to Lions International, a maximum of 35 Ambassador of Goodwill awards are given out worldwide each year.

“There’s only two that I know of in Newfoundland who have received it. One was Corinne Tulk in Stephenville who received it a couple of years ago,” said Clarke. “I’ve got 30 plus years in Lions, and I’ve always tried to put Lions first and foremost in my life. Even though I’ve worked, I’ve still put Lions in the forefront.”

Clarke said she was humbled and surprised by the award.

“Of all the things I could have ever envisioned in my life, I could never have imagined I would be awarded the Ambassador of Goodwill,” said Clarke. “It’s the highest award that anybody could ever receive as an individual with Lions International, and to be awarded it, I still can’t believe it, even over a month later. I was just dumbfounded and one of the great stories I have in my life is winning that award. It has meant so much.”

The award was given out during the District N3 Convention in North Point on Oct. 23, well before the good work helping with Hurricane Fiona relief efforts by the Lions Club in Port aux Basques. The award went to Clarke strictly because of the dedication she has shown over the three decades.

“In the past five or six years now, I’ve helped create 15 clubs in our district, new Lions Clubs, and out of these have been the Conne River Lions Club which, when you’re talking about diversity, is our first ever First Nations club,” said Clarke. “I started the Rainbow Cyber Lions Club in Stephenville. We started that one and brought in new clubs in Labrador. We started a campus club in Corner Brook, so when we talk about diversity and inclusion, that’s one of the things I’ve always tried to promote.”

Clarke came from a family who was dedicated to serving their community, so deciding to join the Lions years ago was a natural fit for her.

“Lions, to me, was the ideal symbol of helping your community. The idea of giving back, and I grew up in a family where Mom and Dad were big into serving their community in Isle Aux Morts. Dad used to be on the schoolboard, on the church, anything that needed to be done in the lodge, and Mom has been volunteering all of her life, so it was a norm for me to follow suit and Lions, to me, was the greatest way I could have the biggest impact,” said Clarke. “Lions is international, so when you talk about serving, you’re not just serving your own community. The difference we make is global. Whether it’s the forest fire that happened in Fort McMurray, the tsunami that hit overseas, sending glasses to foreign countries where people have never been able to see until they’ve worn a pair of glasses, the impact Lions make is phenomenal. One of my greatest achievements in life was the day I became a Lion.”

Clarke said her experiences with the Lions Club have allowed her to form cherished memories.

“You can get those ‘a-ha’ moments, and I’ve had many with Lions. I remember we had a house that burned down in this area, and it was a couple of days before Christmas, and I remember going out and this family had two small kids. I walked in with a hamper from the Lions Club and a cheque to help them through Christmas. That’s when you realize you make a difference,” said Clarke. “What better way could we help serve than to be there to help our fellow neighbours? I will be a Lion until the day I cannot be a Lion, until the day I die. I will always have Lions in my heart.”

Clarke believes she has been able to achieve so much because of the great people who volunteer alongside her.

“You surround yourself with great people and great leaders, and because of that, it certainly impacts what you do. When we were doing all the relief efforts for Hurricane Fiona, when you surround yourself with people who want to make a difference and are committed to helping others, then when you see them succeed, you succeed. I’ve had a lot of people that have helped me, mentored me, coached me, provided leadership over the years, and I am what I am today because of the great mentors I’ve had. Whether it be from work or from Lions, everybody has been stepping stones to get me to where I am today.”

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