BELFAST CONFERENCE 2012: 25th-27th October 2012
Again this year, six of our members attended the Annual Federation Conference which was held in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. Greetings and good wishes for the conference were read at the opening ceremony from HM The Queen, Presidents of Ireland and the Isle of Man, Governors of several Commonwealth countries and from senior UK and local politicians.
The Conference theme, Facing the Future Together generated a wide range of topics presented by keynote and other memorable speakers from around the world, many of whom included the varied contribution made by current Soroptimist projects. It was an additional pleasure to hear the two 17 year old winners of the Irish Soroptimist Public Speaking Competition, Eva Richards from Northern Ireland and Rachel Riegel from the Republic of Ireland, give their winning speeches to a packed auditorium. The conference was memorable, not only for its content, delegates and venues but also for the friendliness and warmth of the local people we met wherever we went.
Friday lunchtime included a demonstration linked to the Purple Teardrop Campaign. Several hundred delegates gathered outside the Waterfront Hall to, literally, Stop The Traffic! A smaller group of delegates did exactly that when, carrying banners and accompanied by police, they stopped the motor traffic as part of the SI-Campaign against Human Trafficking.
It was a delight to meet several members of the Easter Ross Club, one of our Friendship Link Clubs and a pleasure to meet in person, Sally Higgins, SIGBI’s Website & Membership Officer whose support is so helpful.
Not surprisingly, we took advantage of other things on offer during and after the conference. The final evening’s ceremony and reception at the amazing Titanic Signature Building on the site where the fated Titanic ship was built and Friday evening’s, A Taste of Ireland with Irish music, dance and food at the Europa Hotel were experiences not to be missed. Post-conference activities included a drive along the beautiful north coast, including the Giants Causeway and the scary Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The suspension bridge which connects the tiny island of Carrick to the mainland is 98ft above the water and rocks below. Built originally by salmon fishermen it is now a tourist attraction.
Sheila Blacklock deserves a special mention because she was the only one of us who screwed up enough courage to take the knee-trembling walk there and back across the 66 ft long Rope Bridge in the pouring rain; what’s more, she has a certificate to prove it. And there was more courage that day. We all know that Soroptimists ‘Make a difference’. Just to demonstrate this, some of us were convinced that muscle and will-power could move a few of the columns of the Giants Causeway a centimeter or two. Whether that’s the case only geological time will tell so watch this space!
BRIGHTON CONFERENCE 2011: 27th-29th October 2011
Six of our members attended the highly successful and memorable Annual Federation Conference which was held in the Brighton Dome. The Conference, whose theme was “Inspiring Action, Transforming Lives” offered the opportunity to meet other Soroptimists from all over the world and to share news about the multitude of current and planned projects working to transform the lives of women and girls across all countries.
There was the parade of flags from all the nations represented; greetings from HM The Queen, from Presidents of Ireland and the Isle of Man; from Governors of many Commonwealth countries and from senior UK politicians. These were followed by stimulating keynote speakers, workshops on a wide range of topics and a whole army of exhibitors displaying items relating to the work and aims of Soroptimism.
In a major conference event, the roof nearly flew off the Dome Theatre when the
Soroptimists were given the news that they had reached the fund-raising target of £1million for the life-saving work of Project SIerra and Hope and Home for Children to help women and girls in Sierra Leone to rebuild their lives after 20 years of civil war. The cheque which was presented to partner organisation, Hope and Homes for Children was the result of the four-year appeal “Project Sierra” – a joint effort by the 90,000 members of Soroptimist International in 124 countries across the world. SIGBI members raised £370,000 of that amount alone and 1,200 members of SI Great Britain and Ireland were in Brighton to see the cheque presented.
The International Project Liaison for Project SIerra, Alison Sutherland, who couldn’t be at the Conference, sent this message from Sierra Leone:
“I have seen first-hand how Project SIerra has made a real difference to the lives of so many women, children and their families in need. Reaching the £1 million target is an amazing innovative fundraising effort.”
Next year’s conference will be held in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall
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