1995 - The Start


At the start of his year of office as District Governor (1995 - 1996) Lion Phil Nathan initiated a major welfare project within District 105EA, 'Operation Lionheart'. The aim being to take 100,000 shoeboxes, filled with small personal necessities and supplies, together with other badly needed items to displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia, a country at that time still suffering from and devastated by the effects of a civil war based on the several communities, a conflict that earned the epithet 'ethnic cleansing'.

After several months fundraising, in April 1996, a convoy, of eight vehicles in total, was driven overland, across Europe, to Croatia, one of the nation states emerging out of the bitter civil war in what was then Yugoslavia. The total value of the goods transported, in 1996, was £1.3 Million. Croatian television followed the convoy and referred to them as 'Forty Crazy English with the Big Hearts'.

Video of Operation Lionheart

A trailer, which was part of 'Operation Lionheart', loaded with shoeboxes and other supplies ready to depart.

This giant mascot, Leo, was brought by 'Operation Lionheart ' and presented to Hana by Lion David Woodruff.

Whilst in the country the Lions saw destruction and devastation that had affected medical services and left staff 'improvising' to enable them to continue treating patients.

Example of Destroyed Facility

Only Water Sorce

Laundry and Sterilisation


A plane took off from an Italian military base in Rimini, picked up a very precious cargo in Yugoslavia and flew through the night to Birmingham where a surgeon was waiting, scrubbed and ready, to take delivery of a very sick baby and save his life.

That baby has a special place in the history of the British and Ireland Lions, for he was the first to be 'medi-vacced' out of the carnage and tragedy that was the former Yugoslavia, thanks to the Lions' of MD105 (British Isles and Ireland) and LCIF (Lions Clubs International Foundation). What followed led to the formation of the charity, "Lions Clubs International- A Gift for Living".

Just one of many babies treated through this project

That baby, by now a healthy teenager, had been born with severe medical problems in what was then one of the most advanced nations in the western world….but then came the savage internecine war which tore the heart out of Bosnia/Herzogovina, destroying the lives and morale of the local people, and, importantly, damaging hospitals and other medical facilities beyond repair, leaving the doctors and nurses unable to train and work.

So out of the darkness emerged a gift - A Gift for Living - which gradually down the years has brought light and hope because as ever in human conflicts the main victims were the helpless - babies and small children who were dying from lack of specialised care.

"Lions Clubs International - A Gift for Living" was born out of a partnership between the Lions of the British Isles and Ireland and the charity then known as Child Advocacy International, which is to this day devoted to protecting children whose health and life chances have been blighted by war.

Rewind a year or so from this life-saving flight, to when "40 crazy Englishmen with Big Hearts" as the locals called them, set out on that gruelling, blizzard ending 800 mile trip. What Lion Phil Nathan saw on that journey - terrible devastation, desperation, death, sorrow and carnage, inspired him to set up 'A Gift for Living' and to this day he continues his inspirational leadership by continuing his pledged to build (or rather re-build) from the roots up, getting vitally needed, but hopelessly demoralised medical professionals back on track, trained, motivated and supplied with the essential tools of their trade, equipment and medicine.

Bosnia MOET Course (Management of Obstetrics and Trauma Programme)

The baby mentioned above was the first of 41 critically ill tiny children who would otherwise have had no chance of survival. They were snatched out of danger and air- lifted to hospitals in Britain for life-saving care. (The war was still raging in their country). Sadley two of those infants lost their battle for life. The remaining children were, after treatment, returned to their own country along with medical staff who had come over with them to learn the skills necessary to continue the childrens treatment.

The list of the achievements of 'A Gift for Living' down the years is impressive: Children's Units, Maternity Units and Intensive Care Units in East and West Mostar, Goradze, Sarajevo, Bihac and Banja Luka. Plus a Paediatric A&E unit.

These hospitals' facilities continue to improve, increasingly enabling them to achieve a level of care befitting sick babies and children and modern day practice and training for doctors continues whenever possible where required.

To see further details of the work carried out by 'A Gift for Living' follow the story through our website.

$75,000 to help with the cost of evacuation and medical treatment of the first critically ill children.

Video Lion Phil Nathan & A Gift for Living


contact@lionsclubsinternational-agiftforliving.org.uk : Links : Charity Number:107041

Video Lion Phil Nathan & A Gift for Living