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Club Speakers 2022 -2023

Women Empowering Girls

Women Empowering Women

At our July Dinner Meeting we were joined by Jane, an Engineering Recruitment Manager, with In-Comm, an Engineering Apprenticeship Company, and one of her apprentices, Katie who studies engineering.
Jane is part of a family run training/apprenticeship provider which has operated for 41 years and their theme is “Women Empowering Women” to show women and young girls, that even though engineering is classed as a male industry, they can take something new to the table such as design, if they are interested in this practical type of work. They have two engineering sites with phenomenal kits and which large, often local, companies provide appropriate training equipment. Jane often visits schools promoting apprenticeships, pointing out that they can study at the training sites but also learn more by doing things at one of the engineering companies, and also, get paid.
Katie related her experiences following an Engineering course, but then did a Draughtsman Course and is one of Jane’s successful students and very importantly, has fulfilled her ambition to be doing something practical. Kate is a company Ambassador who has received a number of awards. The ratio of men to women in the industry doesn’t bother her at all. When Apprenticeships are completed, unlike University degrees, there are no financial debts.
Both speakers were pleased that there are now more young women who feel happy and comfortable to apply for engineering apprenticeships, in fact there is now a 22% ratio of new female apprentices. The evening was most informative and gave members a good understanding of opportunities for women and girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Photo shows L to R -Joint President Lynne, Katie, Jane and Joint President Cherril.


Promise Dreams

At our dinner meeting on 15th June 2023 we were delighted to welcome Tricia Ward Jones from Promise Dreams.  She has been a volunteer fund raiser for 17 years and prior to that she helped to raise funds for the MacMillan nurses charity.  Tricia explained that she was keen to work more closely with a children’s charity having been in the teaching profession.

The aims of Promise Dreams seemed to offer something special and so her journey with the charity started  There are few overheads with just a manager and part time assistant plus Tricia as the main fund raiser.  So the majority of the money is put directly into children’s dreams.  It is a ‘can do’ charity ! some dreams include a wish for a wheelchair that can get onto  beach or a trike to ensure access to the playground at school.  They support children from 0 – 18.

Joint President Lynne gave Tricia a donation for the charity from the club.   Photo shows L-R Joint President Lynne. Tricia, Joint President Cherril






Member Hilary spoke at our March Dinner Meeting on the topic of Lawrence Hodson who was an artist and the owner of Compton Hall, now Compton Hospice. He was a patron of the arts and had a famous collection of Pre Raphaelite paintings. He commissioned William Morris to redesign Compton Hall with his wallpaper that was a new design but sadly William Morris’ last. Hilary showed photographs of art work and designs including William Morris prints. However Lawrence overspent and had to sell Compton Hall in 1939 when it was taken over for the war effort. There is a room dedicated to Stephen Morton at Compton where the William Morris work can still be seen but not open to the public. Stephen Morton was a prime mover in establishing Compton as a Hospice. Several of our members volunteer at Compton Care and we also have a member who sings in the Compton Care Choir.

Photo shows Hilary with President Barbara.

President Barbara with Hilary

On the same evening members brought Easter Eggs to be donated to Di’s Kitchen in Wolverhampton, a charity that provides well over 500 meals to vulnerable people per week. We have supported this charity for several years. Over 50 eggs were collected and photo shows President Elect Cherril and Hilary.


President Elect Cherril and Hilary with the Easter eggs









West Midlands Air Ambulance.

Kay Starkey, West Midlands Air Ambulance Fund Raising executive spoke to members at the February Dinner Meeting. She spends time in schools often teaching CPR to children and attends lots of events to talk about the charity. Kay speaks passionately, stating that ‘saving time, saves lives’. Air Ambulance receives no funding from Government, NHS, or the National Lottery and depends entirely on donations. It costs £3000 each time a helicopter is launched.

West Midland Air Ambulance covers 6 counties and has three air bases. Three of the helicopters can reach anyone in trouble in eight minutes and they attend to a child every fourth day. The charity is known as an A&E department in the sky and they can do many procedures on the roadside.

Our President Barbara chose this as her main charity as she herself had been saved by the West Midlands Air Ambulance. (See separate post on Barbara’s story). A cheque for £500 was given to Kay. Photo shows President Barbara presenting a cheque to Kay.

Barbara presents a cheque to Kay










President Barbara was able to attend her first meeting since her second surgery to completely replace her aorta. President Elect Cherril read out her story (below) as Barbara’s voice is still adversely affected by the surgery and she is experiencing breathlessness.

 “It was 5 years ago that my life was saved by the team work of Walsall Manor Hospital, Cosford Air Ambulance and Liverpool heart and Chest Hospital. Before that time the Air Ambulance was something I romantically watched on Television programmes or occasionally flying over my house.  Never in a million years did I think I would be in one!

The first of July 2016 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I went into work like any other day, delivered a training programme and soon after felt very thirsty and lacked coordination. My colleagues found me and sent me down to A&E at about 1.30pm

There they found a Type A, Aortic dissection. There were no local hospitals that could take me, but with the persistence of one of the Cardiac consultants in A&E, Liverpool said they “would do us a favour”. My family was told to wait until I got there and not to follow on. This was because I may never have got there!  An ambulance with my Cardiac consultant was blue lighted to Cosford where a helicopter was waiting for me. I could see the consultant holding his breath. We both knew how serious the situation was, I was in denial that I could go at any second. He later told me that if I bled out they couldn’t save me.

It took 40 mins to get to Liverpool by air and we landed in a field of long swaying grass, apparently it was Ken Dodds field in Knotty Ash. I couldn’t see out, only the clouds and bits of landscape. I don’t remember much, just landing to a waiting ambulance and the next thing I remember was that it was 11pm at night and I was being wheeled down to the theatre with my family sharing their best wishes as we went.

Now that I am on the other side, I will be eternally grateful to the NHS, its Doctors and Nurses and supporting (silent) services like the Air Ambulance who are there just when we need them. But like all NHS services they experience major shortfalls in funding which have to be made up by fundraising and charitable donations.

I am proud that tonight as a Club we can publically donate further funds to support the service.

.To our silent and often unsung heroes, l hope that the funds we raised will go some way to supporting your work and the saving of countless lives”.

Thank you    .President Barbara .



Club Salutes Jackie Brookes’ 55 years of service.

Jackie joined Bilston Club in January 1967 and has served the club and Soroptimism for an amazing 55 years. At the club’s meeting on 20th January there was a celebration in her honour. Sadly President Barbara is still recovering from major surgery so President Elect Cherril led the excellent tribute to Jackie’s work. Jackie has been Club President on three occasions including the Golden Jubilee. In 2007 she was awarded Honorary Membership of Bilston. Jackie is passionate about service through Programme Action and is adamant that she is part of a team.

Cherril shared some highlights from Jackie’s service, too many to mention in this post. In the Golden Jubilee year Jackie challenged members to create a cameo of each decade as part of a Pageant. She was complimented on her drive and creativity. At the end of the year many Region Soroptimists enjoyed a great performance.

Who can forget the Bilston Camels! In Barbados the club was presented with the International Best Practice Award. Other notable projects led by Jackie include Mass Balloon releases, the United Nations Gift Box, Cardiac Screening at the Wolves, Forced Marriage and the Spoon Campaign. This year Jackie, with President Elect Cherril, led the Centenary celebrations working with a Bilston School to plant trees.

A very proud moment for Jackie was receiving the MBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in 2014. This was in recognition of her work for Soroptimism.

Cherril thanked Jackie for 55 years of service and said how proud club is that she is member of TEAM Bilston. Jackie will never take credit for her amazing dedication for club and PA.

Using the song ‘If I were not a Soroptimist something else I’d like to be …

four members sang and danced showing Jackie’s other interests of Art, Guiding, a Physical Education teacher and Cricket umpire. The production was hilarious rounded off the celebration so well. Congratulations Jackie!

Photos show the ‘Performers’ and Cherril & Jackie

The Bilston thespians


Use the link to see the ‘performance’ on You Tube






SI Bilston’s Christmas Party.

Like all clubs, last year’s Christmas was ‘cancelled’ so this year President Elect Cherril was determined that we should enjoy ourselves but with safety in mind. Sadly President Barbara is still recovering from her major heart surgery and couldn’t be with us but her What’s App message connected us to her.

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas meal during which we taxed our brains to complete a Christmas quiz and played pass the Sprout! At the end of the meal Cherril presented long service award certificates and beautiful flower arrangements to three members, Lesley who has given 40 years service, Nerys 35 years and Jean 25 years making a total of 100 years service. What a coincidence that those 100 years of service reflect our organisations Centenary! Unfortunately Jean was unable to be present and Nerys is poorly. The photo shows Lesley receiving her certificate and flowers from President Elect Cherril.

A raffle with a difference was held. Winners were asked to collect their prize which included a number. That number between 1 and 12 then required the recipient to sing the matching verse from Twelve Days of Christmas -accompanied of course by the whole room to avoid embarrassment. The final part of the evening was entertainment by members Pat, Lynne, Joan, Jenny and Denise who all read poems finishing with the one printed below. This poem is a combination of lines from anonymous poets and linked by Denise’s own words.



Lesley completes 40 year


I met you as strangers now look on you as friends

and hope that our friendship never ends

Right now, this second, this minute, this day

our sisterhood is here, is here to stay.

The best kind of people are warm and kind.

They are always there and never mind.

The best kind of people smile and embrace

and always support you with strength and grace.

The best kind of people share your joy

laugh with you, joke and enjoy.

The best kind of people are honest and true

The best kind of people, my sisters are you.

So may your Christmas be perfect through and through

one that’s filled with things that mean the most to you,

and hoping that the year ahead will bring you nothing less

than all the special things that give you happiness.

This poem conveys Bilston members message to all Soroptimists everywhere.

Stay safe, keep well and have a fantastic Christmas.


The first day of January 2022 was a very special date for SI Bilston member, Deacon Betty Vaughan, as she reached a milestone birthday of 95 years. An amazing achievement- well done Betty.

On Saturday 8th January Club members and friends treated Betty to an afternoon tea at Bantock Park to celebrate such a wonderful occasion and all enjoyed a lovely afternoon together with good food.

Photos of the birthday girl with President Elect Cherril.

Betty celebrates with the club







Our Dinner Meeting in November 2021 was devoted to the performance of Sue Challoner’s play depicting the 100 years of Soroptimism.  Past Region Presidents Pat & Cherril recruited ‘actresses’ to play the parts and Pat held rehearsals.  The result was a very good production and we all learned something more about our organisation and the performers had great fun doing it.


SI Bilston budding Thespians.




YMCA  -Open Door and Hosting

At the Dinner meeting on 21st October, President Barbara invited Rachel from YMCA who operates the Open Door project, to talk about what this actually involves.   When the words “homeless person” is mentioned, very often there is a misconception as to who this might be.  In fact a very large percentage of homeless people are young and have become homeless because they’re unable to live at home due to things like family breakdowns, abuse, bereavement, etc.   At this point they are very lonely and vulnerable and can be coerced into criminal activities or sexually exploited.    This is where the Hosting comes to the fore.   Caring people who have a spare bedroom, offer their help and are then on call to step in when contacted by Open Door.  When they volunteer for this, they are fully trained for four weeks, and obviously go through all the necessary Safeguarding checks.    Sometimes the young people require the provision of accommodation overnight, a few weeks or even in some cases, a few months.   YMCA receives referrals from local Councils and before they’re allocated to a Host, there is a meeting to ensure both are happy to be together.  Rachel then introduced Gary and Pat who have now been hosting for ten years and in that time have helped over 70 young people.  The majority of those who have been helped, are still in touch which pleases them to know the care and support they were able to provide has enabled the young people to become good citizens. Members were very impressed and thought how lovely it was that one couple could have such a positive influence on so many young lives.

Despite President Barbara’s health problems of late, she has for the past two and half years, hosted a young girl, who has now gained her confidence and wellbeing and qualified to attend University.  Well done Madam President.













At our first face to face meeting after lockdown in September our speaker was Georgie Westwood who is the Charity and Fundraising Manager for Walsall Manor Hospital. She was very knowledgeable and shared how the NHS intended to cope with the Winter pressures over the next four months and the current increase in COVID figures, particularly amongst the 30-40 age group.

Georgie shared how they spent donations and informed us that two houses had been gifted to the charitable fund which was a welcomed boost! We added to the cheque and raised £80. The monies will be used in honour of Lesley`s mother and will go towards something special to care for the elderly, possibly in the Dementia Ward.



The month of MARCH 2021 brought with it another Zoom speaker meeting.  Our speaker was Hannah from the British Food Box.  She and her partner John, both farmers children, decided to make some money to help with university fees and set up an open farm shop attached to the farm, producing and selling cheeses.  This proved to be very successful and when lockdown came along they diversified into home delivery and on line delivery.  At the same time they broadened their produce to include, veggie boxes and other dairy products.  Hannah is a likeable, vibrant and energetic young lady and congratulations to her for her success so far and good luck to her and John in the future.








At our most recent Zoom Business meeting, 5th January 2021 we welcomed two staff members from the Black Country Women’s Aid, Deborah & Rose,  who spoke passionately about their work.   Currently there are 245 clients, women & men, and 300 living in ‘safe houses’ on £37 per week.  Members were very interested to learn that the type of problems experienced by the clients include not just domestic violence but also, sexual exploitation, forced begging, modern slavery, baby farming, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and female genital exploitation.  More recently added to that list is a support service for stalking when the charity works with the Home Office.  When clients leave the Refuge they receive £300 but they are always short of goods such as kitchen utensils and bedding.  As Soroptimists do, we offered our help but sadly at this time due to Covid the charity cannot accept second hand goods and have no where to store those donations.  Bilston’s  thanks were ably expressed by Leslie with a promise from us that we will  seek material ways to help the clients.


By December 2020 the Zoom host, our President, was  becoming more familiar with Zoom technology and we held another speaker meeting.

At our December Zoom meeting we were honoured to welcome Federation President Elect, Cathy Cottridge who had kindly agreed to talk to members about Tree Planting. Cathy explained why tree planting had been chosen to be a part of Soroptimist International’s centenary celebrations and that all clubs, Regions or individuals, would hopefully be involved in their own areas. Already 10 clubs have showcased their projects. The essential starting point is for clubs to seek permission from local authorities or landowners to plant trees. Cathy provided examples of how to apply for trees and sources from which to obtain them. Applications can be made but because of COVID applications will be held over until March 2021. Following Cathy’s inspirational talk, members were unanimous in their wish to be part of the Tree Planting project and a number of members volunteered to be part of a working group with work to start in the New Year.


   Federation President Elect Cathy Cottridge


The speaker at our Zoom October 2020 meeting was Simon Archer the founder and editor of the Bilston Magazine.   Simon has been very supportive of  Bilston Club, publishing much of our news complete with photographs.  His presentation was excellent and he told us the history of the Town magazines that he has founded and how he had come to be involved in this work.   Simon chose to give his speakers cheque to Let’s Play a charity supporting children with disabilities.









Simon Archer


COVID 19 interrupted our normal meetings.


In January 2020 Leanne Harper spoke to us about the charity for whom she works, Changing Lives.  The charity is a national charity providing specialist support for vulnerable women every month.  Leanne described the local situation where dedicated outreach workers look out for women who are sexually exploited or involved with sex work across Wolverhampton & Walsall.  The staff do not have an easy task but they build up positive relationships with the women to help them with personal safety and a range of practical issues.  Often the staff are working during evenings in a non judgemental way with one to one support.  Members agreed to provide items of clothing for the women as identified by Leanne.


Leanne with President Jenny




President Jenny presents a cheque to speaker Jan

During the  July Dinner Meeting we welcomed speaker Jan Kellond from Di’s Kitchen (Tabs) Wolverhampton linked to the Tabernacle Baptist Church.   She spoke passionately about her work in the kitchen based in Whitmore Reans.  Every Thursday the volunteers provide a meal between 4pm and 5pm.  Everybody is welcome to enjoy a hot meal.

The kitchen was started by Diane Henry 6 years ago and has grown in numbers since its inception. She first served 6 guests and this has now increased to some 50 guests each week.  It is hoped that a lunchtime meal can be served during August mainly for children whilst on school holidays.  Guests can include homeless, people with mental health issues and sofa surfers.   Local supermarkets are very helpful in providing food that otherwise would be wasted, these include ASDA, Iceland and ALDI.

It was a most interesting evening and Jan was presented with a cheque for Di’s Kitchen


At the June Dinner Meeting, the guest speaker, Keith Oram, talked about two artistic ladies who had seriously impressed him.  Keith had been an art teacher for 30 years and worked at the Art Gallery for 10 years.   He was pleased President Jenny had invited him to join us and share his knowledge.

The first lady he spoke about was Artemisia Gentileschi (from Italy) whom he thought to be a very important female artist who operated in the early 1600s.   Because she had suffered sexual abuse by the artist Agostine Tassi who, at the behest of her father, was teaching her to paint, her artwork reflected the sadness and anger she felt.   Because of the era, she was deemed to be the guilty person, but fortunately, after years of investigation by her father, evidence was provided to prove she was the innocent party.  She went on to create many beautiful paintings some of which are still on view today.   Bearing in mind the fact that women artists were seen as monstrous for exercising a creative talent thought to be exclusively male, she did extremely well to continue her good work.

President Jenny with speaker Keith

The second lady, Ana Maria Pacheco is from Brazil and was born in 1943.   She worked in the UK from 1973 and she became Head of Fine Art at Norwich School of Art.   She is best known for sculptures carved from wood, as well as her paintings.  Some of her work is currently exhibited at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.   Her work deals with issues of tensions between people and the saying –

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed

Is that good men do nothing” is one of her favourite quotes.

(Written by Edmund Burke in the 1700s)


Our May dinner meeting proved to be very enjoyable and most secretive (!) with an informative and entertaining speaker from Bletchley Park.  John spoke to us about his involvement with Bletchley as a volunteer for 25 years and how he also gives talks on cruise ships.

In 1883 Sir Herbert Samuel Leon purchased the building. During the Second World War the estate housed the British Government Code and Cypher School which regularly penetrated the secret communications, importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz cyphers.

In 1939 there were 39 workers and by 1945 there were 8500.  Three ladies to every man, Baroness Trumpington and Lady Fforde had both worked at Bletchley Park.  There were 200 plus signals per day to be dealt with. Maria Lever broke the code that forewarned the UK troops at the Battle of Matapan.

Arrangements are in hand for club members to visit Bletchley Park for a guided tour with John in August.

We were delighted to welcome to the evening members from SI Wolverhampton and the President of SI Stourbridge who is also a guide at Bletchley Park.


President Jenny with speaker John



At our dinner meeting on 18th April newly elected President Jenny welcomed Georgie from The Samaritans.  We heard about the amazing work of the organisation and Georgie herself has been a volunteer for 34 years. Over that time she has listened to many hundreds of callers.  The base in Wolverhampton has 77 volunteers and training is available for call handlers to help deal with any incoming problems.  The handler’s main job is to listen. Clients who phone in will be wanting a friendly voice to help them with their problems which include mental health issues, debt, relationships,alcohol and drug addiction.  The Samaritans rely entirely on donations and it costs £30.000 per year to run the office in Wolverhampton.  Part of their work is to liaise with prisons and the rail network.

There is no doubt that Georgie is very committed to her role and she spoke passionately about The Samaritans.






At the final Dinner Meeting of the Soroptimist year in March President Gill presented cheques and a gift to representatives of her chosen charities or individuals that club has supported during the year. Linda, representing a hostel for the homeless in Wolverhampton, received a small part of a bigger gift of outdoor play equipment and outdoor furniture. Trisha, manager of the Excel Centre in Bilston received a cheque for her niece to help towards her further education as she starts her university degree in Panama City this month. Young people in Panama do not enjoy the financial support for further education to which young people in the UK have become accustomed. We have contacted SI Panama to ask if they can also give Sugheily support. A cheque was given to Wendy, Guider in charge of 1st & 2nd Bilston Girl Guiding Units specifically for new camping equipment. Lorraine, Headteacher of Green Park Special School in Bilston, received a cheque to go towards the purchase of a ‘Mud Kitchen’. Club members have been beavering away making Fiddle Quilts for the pupils at the school until member Julie, who is the shining sewing light in club, fell and broke her wrist, bringing the sewing to a temporary halt!  More money was raised on 29th March at an evening with Dandy.

Recipients of cheques with President be given to Green Park School for a Mud Kitchen.



Our February Dinner Meeting is usually a celebration of Soroptimist International and it is a good time for us to stop and reflect on Soroptimists worldwide.

The evening started with four candles being lit to represent the four Federations. All the countries of our own Federation SIGBI were read out as small coloured tea lights were lit by members. Flags of the countries of SIGBI adorned the tables.
During the meal members had to tax their brains by answering Soroptimist quiz questions.

Following the meal we were delighted to welcome Talia and Ebony who are twins. They performed 2 dances both of which involved complex sequences that they had choreographed -they were a delight. Following this we listened to Kuli Kohli reciting some of her poetry. She lives with cerebral palsy and her poetry reflects her determination to be successful and to live a life like anyone else. She spoke with passion and great courage.

A lovely evening was had by all.


President Gill, President Elect Barbara and our entertainers.



President Gill and Keeley our speaker on Anti Slavery in Wolverhampton.

A most interesting speaker at our January Dinner meeting informed club members of the work of WASP, Wolverhampton Anti Slavery  Partnership.  Although members try to keep themselves informed about these very serious matters Keely Gibbs gave us plenty of information about the current situation in Wolverhampton.  Keely works as a police officer within the Wolverhampton Anti Slavery Partnership (WASP) tackling Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking. WASP is part of a multi agency group who work together to support victims and ensure their welfare needs are met. Keely explained the complexity of the problems and how her work involves training agencies eg schools, social services. Her training involves raising awareness to various groups and also systems of support. The Modern Day Slavery can include victims who are sex workers, people forced into labour, drugs,begging, domestic servitude to name but a few. The whole area is complex and difficult. It was clear to members that Keely has a very good understanding of the problems and is very proactive in her role as a police officer. She proved that she is a great asset to the Wolverhampton Police Force.  Keely answered many searching questions.





At our dinner meeting on Thursday November 16th we had the great pleasure of welcoming a real life chocolatier Jackie from Nova Chocolates and her very able assistant Jill who was also her sister and great at passing round free samples. Jackie gave a history of chocolate which goes way back to the 15th century and cocoa butter was then used for a wide variety of things both medically and also if spread around rocks it keeps snakes away ! Jackie brought us right up to modern times and the difference in chocolate production now, the most famous chocolate bar of all Cadburys dairy milk was first produced in 1905. Chocolate is very good for you especially dark chocolate but of course moderation in all things. club member Denise then volunteered to make a chocolate lollipop from scratch, melting chocolate, decorating everything and very professional it looked too.   One interesting fact for a quiz night if all the crème eggs made and eaten in a year were placed together they would reach 12000 miles.

Jackie brought some of her Christmas range and we were able to purchase some very different and unique gifts.


Feast your eyes on all that chocolate!

Our speaker for October was Hannah Squire who came dressed so appropriately, in a dress with a William Morris inspired print, and talked to us about the role of the Mander family and their support of Women’s suffrage.Her extensive research ensured that we enjoyed a very detailed factual account of the suffragists within the family, and how they promoted their message.  A young enthusiastic and talented lady working for the National Trust is sure to rise steadily and become very much more widely known. This was an evening to remember.


Hannah showing off her William Morris dress.
















Continuing the club interest in Alzheimers/Dementia, Karen Perry from ‘Fiddle Fingers Quilts’ was invited to speak to members at the July dinner meeting about her quilts.  Karen brought with her fine examples of her work intended to calm and soothe someone with dementia.  They are small quilts which are designed to help sufferers recall the past through individual interests, and various tactile patches.  Members were able to handle quilts made previously and to admire the craftsmanship of each quilt.  They are made to fit on a lap, for someone in a wheel chair, or lying in bed.  Many of the quilts are made to reflect personal interests of sufferers and also to help carers to be aware of some of the sufferers’ memories. Additionally the quilts are being used with children with autism and other special needs.  Several members who have sewing skills were already making their own plans to make contributions!



Photo shows President Gill with speaker Karen






President Gill and Trisha & Sugheily.



Our June dinner meeting took us on a ‘trip’ to Panama.  Trisha Gallardo, who had lived in Panama for three and a half years, and married a Panamanian, spoke to us about the economic and inequality issues that divide Panama.  Panama is a small Republic in Central America with a small percentage of indigenous population.

These groups are marginalised and discriminated against, they have been given isolated areas of valueless land to call home, with few facilities and limited access to education.  Women in Panama are seen as physically weak sex who need to be protected and governed by men, they are seen as home makers and their role is to support their husbands and for the indigenous women this is even more so.

Education is hit and miss and to make any change to their lives they need to go to university and even then a good wage is not guaranteed.

However Trisha said that change was happening slowly and for the indigenous women it was very slow. She said that Mona Foundation, Few for Change-Unidos Por El Cambio and Fundacion Calicanto  were organisations working to improve Education and quality of life for these women.

Trisha’s talk was full of facts and information that left us all stunned about the lives these women have and grateful that we live in Britain, but also wondering if we can help these women in any way.  She was accompanied by her niece, Sugheily, who is visiting this country for a few months and she was able to speak about her experience through Trisha’s translation.




At our May dinner meeting we were delighted to welcome Angela Butler. She is a fantastic ambassador and fundraiser for CRY and she updated us on the work that she does to raise the profile of CRY, the charity(Cardiac Risk in the Young).


L to R
President Gill, Angela and Bilston member Jean

After the tragedy of suddenly losing her son Nathan, CRY was a great help in bereavement counselling to Angela and her family.

We got to know Angela through her great friendship with Jean and Peter Jones.  Angela is very thrilled that Bilston Club has raised sufficient funds to host a free screening for 100 youngsters on 14th July in memory of Nathan Butler and Peter Jones.  Nathan was a very keen cricketer and Peter, who sadly passed away, organised many cricket trips for young county players and Nathan was a member of the squad.  Member Jean  has supported CRY for many years and she with husband Peter organised many                                                                                     cricket tours.


Angela has worked tirelessly to raise the awareness and accessibility of screening youngsters aged 14 – 35 years old so no other parents have to endure what her family went through.

She set up the Nathan Butler Memorial fund in memory of her son and she has raised a tremendous amount of money and arranged many screenings, at the moment the total is ten – amazing.   Angela is now a bereavement Councillor for CRY to help other families faced with tragedy.

We are all geared up for our screening session in July where, as well as vital screening, we will also raise awareness and continue Angela’s dream of screening all youngsters.

We are grateful to all our donors whose generosity has enabled us to host this event.  It will be held at the Wolves ground on 14th July 2018.  Angela told her story and all club members applaud her for bravery in telling such a traumatic story and also for her wonderful work to support other parents and the charity CRY.   Despite both Angela and her husband coping with illness lately Angela takes life with sheer determination and we are so proud to know her and for giving us much more insight on the work she does.










President Gill welcomed our speaker to the first meeting of the new Soroptimist year on 19th April 2018.  Pat P is a retired social worker who spoke passionately about her time working with young people who had sexualised behavioural problems.  Pat had opened and run a home for boys 11- 18 years old who had often experienced horrendous upbringing, resorting to sex offences with siblings or even neighbours. In the Home the boys received 24 hour supervision and individual and group therapy sessions as well as education.  Pat and her team provided a safe place within a constant and secure environment and the young men who came with nothing left with many good things.  After success with the rehabilitation of boys Pat had started to receive girls who had similar sexualised behaviour problems but it was soon realised that girls had much more complex issues than boys.  Members were most impressed by Pat’s dedication and passion for her work and asked many searching questions.








President Gill with Pat our speaker








15th March Dinner Meeting

President Ann presenting the cheque to Zoe


At our final dinner meeting of the year in March President Ann had invited Zoe Bagott form the Alzheimers Society to receive a cheque from the club.  Alzheimers was Ann’s main charity.  The photo shows Ann presenting the cheque to Zoe. During Ann’s 6 months as president she has steered the club to support a local homeless hostel in Wolverhampton, completed the project on Mary’s Meals and raised sufficient funds to support the Cardiac Screening to be held at the Molineux on 14th July 2018.




Bozena with President Ann


Traditionally the February Dinner meeting is a celebration to recognise that Soroptimism is international.  This year was no different.

At our dinner meeting on 15th February we were delighted to welcome guest speaker Bozena Benton President of SI Sutton Coldfield.  She joined us for our International Evening and spoke about the global dimension of Soroptimist International. Two members of SI Wolverhampton also joined us for the evening.

The evening began with a candle lighting ceremony giving us all the opportunity to think about and celebrate the work of Soroptimist International.  Candles were lit for the four Federations and each country of SIGBI was read out as coloured candles were switched on.

Bozena has travelled to all the Federations and enjoyed their conferences as well as travelling to the UN SI Conventions.  She was well placed through her previous roles in SIGBI and SI to share with us her experiences and to highlight the differences and similarities between each of the Federations.

Her presentation was very interesting and enlightening with many anecdotes along the journey. It was good to hear firsthand about the development of an African Federation although many hills to climb on the way. We heard about a new club which consists of Jews, Palestinians and Arabs all working in harmony.

In the South West Pacific a long journey is not unusual for members to attend region meetings.  In the American Federation 53% of members are Japanese and 6 men have also joined SI Americas. The SI Europe conference was held in Florence and much enjoyed by Bozena.

In her summary Bozena commented that, although our practices can differ across globe, the fundamental focus for us all is very definitely improving the lives of women and girls and we all have the same  Soroptimist ‘DNA’.






President Ann with Zoe

At our January Dinner  meeting the speaker was Zoe Baggott  who spoke about Alzheimer’s research.  She gave us factual information about the disease and how Alzheimer’s Research UK is working to find out more about how the disease develops and to develop drugs to help and eventually cure dementia

Despite the fact that women are much more likely to suffer from dementia there are things we can do to help ourselves. We need to foster a healthy life style, which means more exercise, keeping the brain active ,going out, meeting people, healthy eating, no smoking, and no alcohol. Not so sure about the latter but socialising and alcohol come together rather well.




Bilston angels -I don’t’ think so!

What a lovely Christmas Party we had  on 21st December at LInden House.  Club members welcomed guests and partners to an evening of Christmas fun, food and carols.  Our guest speaker was Kath Reynolds who took us all down memory lane as she talked about Christmas past.  This included types of decorations, gifts and toys.  We all fondly remembered the sock hanging on the mantelpiece and leaving mince pies and whisky for Santa.. Everyone present could relate to this blast from the past and enjoyed seeing some of the memorabilia that Kath had collected over the years.

The evening included a quiz which was both challenging and fun.  The winning team included Pat & Rowland, Lynne & Phil,Josie & Bob, Cherril and Lesley. Didn’t they do well!.

The evening was completed with an alternative version of Good King Wenceslas sung by President Anne and 3 Bilston ‘angels’!! (Photo)



Dementia Friends Training.















Lee Allan, a trained volunteer Dementia Friend Champion came to speak at our November Dinner Meeting and delivered Dementia Friendly training.  Alzheimers Research is President Ann’s chosen charity.

He began by telling us that out of the top 10 diseases Dementia is the one that has no cure. He emphasised the 5 things we should know about Dementia

  • It is not a natural part of ageing
  • It is caused by diseases of the brain
  • It is not just about losing your memory, it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks.
  • It is possible to live well with dementia.
  • There’s more to a person than the dementia.


It is hoped that Wolverhampton will become a Dementia Friendly City.  We can help,now we have been’ trained’ as Dementia Friends, to be part of that and wear our Dementia Friendly badges with pride.





President Ann with Olympian Verona Elder MBE


At our dinner meeting on 19th October 2017, following a very pleasant meal, President Ann introduced our guest speaker Verona Elder MBE.  Verona is a Wolverhampton girl who as a teenager discovered her talent for athletics. She trained with Wolverhampton and Bilston athletics club and at the age of 19 she was chosen to represent Great Britain in the 400 metres. This was her first Olympic Games.  She proudly wore the GB uniform and was very thrilled to find that Princess Anne was also a competitor.  Verona competed in 3 further Olympic Games , the European Championships and 3 Commonwealth Games. During her performances she won gold ,silver and bronze medals.  The gold was awarded to her for her role in the 4x 400 metres relay. After competing Verona became involved in helping the GB Youth Team and quickly she became the GB Senior Athletics Team Manager at the Atlanta Games

Since that time Verona has worked at Thurrock College using sport to help children with learning difficulties and disabilities.  There is no doubt that Verona has had a great career and her dedication to her training resulted in well deserved medals. It was great to hear Verona’s  story.




President Jan with Geoff



At the Dinner Meeting on 20th July Geoff Blanksley gave a fascinating introduction to pharmacy as a career. In an assured talk he gave details of becoming a pharmacist and his own career.  Pharmacy qualification is now at post graduate level needing a four years Masters degree and one registration year. Geoff had read pharmacy at Bath University but locally there are now three courses at the universities of Wolverhampton, Keele and Aston.

Once qualified a pharmacist has a choice of places to work including community pharmacy, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or the academic sector. Geoff spent most of his career in community pharmacy, working at Boots in Merry Hill and becoming their Community Manager looking for opportunities to expand services within the community. As Community Manager he was “the public face of Boots”. He now works with Local Pharmacy Groups in Wolverhampton and Birmingham, local pharmacies paying a levy to the Local Pharmacy Group

There are seventy pharmacies in Wolverhampton and the scatter of the businesses is good. He noted that the National Health Service is stretched and outlined the services where a local pharmacy could help. Services include patient/pharmacist consultations on prescriptions, useful as 20% of patients do not take their medicine correctly, emergency contraception and public health services. Geoff concluded that doctors are in short supply and pharmacists could help. He noted that diabetes costs the National Health Service £8bn a year but nine relevant tests could be done at a pharmacy. The talk concluded with questions to the speaker.

President Jan with the group who visited The Way
President Jan with the group who visited The Way

On  15th June a small group of Bilston Soroptimists made an early evening visit to the Way Youth Zone in  Wolverhampton. This new city centre initiative next to the skate park provides sporting, dance, musical, art, media, cookery and well being activities for young people of the city aged 8 to 19 in a safe environment  between 4.00pm and 10.00pm each evening and a hot meal is available too.  The range of both indoor and outdoor sports activities is huge and includes rock wall climbing, cricket, racquet and net sports and opportunities to enjoy sport for disabled young people.Our tour lasted about an hour and we met enthusiastic and committed staff and volunteers and many friendly and totally engaged participants.The visit ended with a question and answer session with two members of the management team which certainly provided food for thought and opportunities for further involvement.



At our Dinner meeting 18th May we heard from Joan Morgan, representative of the Wildside Activity Centre based in Wolverhampton.  The Centre has been in existence for 30 years and due to Council cuts 10 years ago the funding ceased.  They now rely on visitors and donations.  Dr Elizabeth Hogarth founded the Wildside Centre which she and volunteers developed into an environmental and activity resource.  The aim of their work is to provide affordable and meaningful activities for schools, youth groups, community, elderly and those affected by mental health problems.  The addition of a narrowboat gave more opportunities for the centre to attract visitors.  As it is based by the canal and woodland there is much scope for adventurous activities.  Within the facility there are many volunteers amounting to 8000 hours per year.  An interesting talk enjoyed by members.









The first dinner meeting of the new year was held on 20th April when members welcomed Lynda a member of the Homeless Service in Wolverhampton to talk about her work with vulnerable people in Wolverhampton.  The hostel was originally an hotel and casino but now boasts 16 rooms for families who are homeless.  Care is provided for 24 hours every day by a small group of passionate staff, who might at one minute be helping to deliver a baby and the next counselling lonely people.  In addition to caring for the residents, staff provide advice and support for accessing services to help their journey back into the community.  Bilston club members are supporting the hostel in a number of ways.  Lyn spoke with passion, knowledge and humility about a job she clearly loves and was able to answer many questions posed by members.

Speaker Lyn holding a gift for the residents.
Speaker Lyn holding a gift for the residents.




(L-R) Kumlaish, President Jan, Tish
(L-R) Kumlaish, President Jan, Tish


Carla and President Jan
Carla and President Jan







SI Bilston – support for others

On 17th March the Dinner Meeting involved cheque presentations to some of the charities the club has been supporting this year. The President, on behalf of the club, presented cheques to Kumlaish from the Divine Onkar Mission and Tish Hill representing the SIGBI Benevolent fund. In addition during the year the club has supported others including; Book Aid International, Jericho House, International Aid Trust Boxes, Compton Hospice, Educate Nepal, Against Breast Cancer, Shoes for Harry, The White House Hostel and the purchase of a water tank in North Jamaica.  The club continues to support Karma Nirvana having raised approximately £3000 from the sale of Spoon Lapel Badges.

Following the meal we welcomed Carla Priddon, Programme and Performance Manager for The Way, a new Youth Zone based in Wolverhampton.  It opened in January 2016 in a brand new building and has many facilities including quiet rooms, kitchen, sports activities, football field, sportshall.  The Way is open to young people from 8 years of age to 19.  Youngsters with additional needs can attend up to the age of 25.  The zone has 4500 members each of whom pay 50p per visit.  Hot meals are available for a very modest fee. There are opportunities for youngsters to attend, have something to do and someone to talk to.  Every night there are 20 activities to choose from and much opportunity for socialising.

The Way was built using much sponsorship and the Mayor’s Partnership Fund.  There are 58 staff and 224 volunteers.  Carla showed some short films with youngsters expressing their gratitude for the support they have received at The Way

International friendship glow
International friendship glow
Birthday girl Josie (R) with Joan
Birthday girl Josie (R) with Joan









Our February Dinner meeting is traditionally our International Evening. This year was no different. We lit the peace candle and then a candle to remember each Federation followed by a candle for each of the countries in SIGBI. Our member, joint Regional President Pat led us through the ceremony. After an enjoyable meal members were challenged by a quiz on wide Soroptimist matters written by our convalescing President Jan. Guess who won?















At our Dinner Meeting on 19th January  club members recognised the service of two members; Jackie Brookes has given 50 years service and Nerys Rees 30 years to the club.


Pat, Nerys & Cherril
Pat, Nerys & Cherril
50 years of service. (L-R) Regional President Pat, Jackie, Regional President Cherril and President for the night Joan.
50 years of service.
(L-R) Regional President Pat, Jackie, Regional President Cherril and President for the night Joan.



















After the meal we welcomed Sue Bennett, Services Manager, Compton Hospice who spoke about the work of the hospice in Wolverhampton.  Sue originally wanted to be a police officer but damaged her back ruling her out of the career she had hoped for.  Following this she worked at Russell’s Hall Hospital when she saw an advertisement for a role at Compton Hospice to which she felt inspired to apply.  She is still working there today.  The role of the hospice has developed since its opening 35 years ago when palliative care for sufferers of cancer was the main focus of their work.  Today the hospice caters for patients with all types of life limiting complaints. It offers units for 18 patients, specialist treatments, a day unit for respite and patient well-being eg hair care.   .  The Hospice has 850 volunteers of which 500 help in the 27 charity shops around Wolverhampton.  Last year these shops raised £2million.

Speaker Sue with President for the evening Joan
Speaker Sue with President for the evening Joan

During the club year money has been raised for the work of the hospice.

Club members recognised Sue’s passion about her work and she does not regret her change in career one bit.














Our dinner meeting on 15th December was a very pleasant Christmas celebration.  With members there were several guests who enjoyed the meal which was followed by mince pies and chocolate.

A quilt  donated by Betty Vaughan and made by the Brewood quilters was skilfully auctioned by Norman (Gibbins)  The sale realised £75 which will be sent to SI International President’s Appeal for education in Nepal.  We were then entertained by the Compton Hospice Choir who do such good work in raising funds for the Hospice. There were many traditional carols and Christmas songs sung by the choir.

A good time was had by all and we send good wishes for Christmas to all Soroptimists and readers of our website.








At our November dinner meeting we were joined by Alison Brown from the Helping Handbags campaign.
She explained the work of this worthwhile campaign, which involves collecting handbags filled with items for homeless women.
For some weeks now Bilston members have been filling ‘ previously loved’ handbags with items such as sanitary protection, basic cosmetics and essential items for daily use to be given to vulnerable women who have few or no belongings.
Alison described how humbling it is to give the handbags personally to the women and to see their reactions.  She gave us a case study of a woman to illustrate the needs of many women in our area.  In the West Midlands 4000 bags were distributed last year and members were able to provide 23 bags for Alison to take away.
Our dinner meeting was well attended and we were able to donate 22 handbags to the “Helping the homeless” campaign. These will be distributed locally throughout the Black Country




Our October Dinner Meeting celebrated Black History Month with members and friends. Speaker was John White who gave us his historical interpretation of the life of a slave. He took the role of William Knight who was a crewman on a slave ship. He described the triangular trail where ships from England travelled with their cargo of metal goods to the West coast of Africa where these were exchanged for a new cargo – men, women & children often up to 450 people per ship. The slaves were not treated as human beings but chattels and taken to the Caribbean. 

Money raised is being sent to our Friendship Link club in North Jamaica for more water tanks.

President Jan with the slave 'William Knight'
President Jan with the slave ‘William Knight’


















Speaker Sheila with President Jan
Speaker Sheila with President Jan









For the July Dinner Meeting club members listened to Sheila who talked about her visit to America when she and her husband  saw Phantom of the Opera. During her stay in New York she had a meal in the Revolving Restaurant.  She enjoyed a boat trip around the islands and visited the Forbes Museum where she was able to see a whole floor dedicated to Faberge.  A good time was had by all.





Speaker, member Betty with Sheila who gave the vote of thanks.
Speaker, member Betty with Sheila who gave the vote of thanks.
President elect Jan took the meeting in the absence of President Barbara
President elect Jan took the meeting in the absence of President Barbara
The club dinner meeting on 16th June was an enjoyable evening.   The speaker after the meal was Bilston Club’s member Deaconess Betty Vaughan.  During the 1950s Betty was trained by the Diaconal Order.  Following this she was asked  to work in Whitechapel where she found a great deal of poverty but the women living in these poor conditions were ‘backyard saints’.  Her missionary work then took her to Bolton and during her 2 years there Betty worked with the youth.   Her ordination followed this and after 12 months she was sent to Ghana.  During her time in Ghana Betty worked closely with Methodist women who were training  for a variety of roles including support of vulnerable people.  On her return to England Betty took up a teaching post at Bilston Girl’s High School, where she taught our Federation President Margaret Emsley.
Several items of memorabilia from Ghana were displayed by Betty.
 19th May 2016 Dinner Meeting
President Barbara and the Region Bag
President Barbara and the Region Bag













President Barbara opened our 19th May Dinner Meeting by welcoming all members.  In the absence of a speaker Barbara provided us with a very well put together presentation which showed how to analyse our skill and communication styles for a particular position in an organisation.  Jan Gray gave out the new membership bags with the slogan ‘Ask me why I#m a Soroptimist’.  President Barbara closed the meeting by announcing the birthdays for the coming months

SI Bilston celebrated President Barbara’s first Dinner Meeting on the evening of the Queen’s 90th birthday,21st April 2016.  We toasted her Majesty and one of our members had made her a birthday card which we all signed.  ‘Her Majesty’ looked beautiful in a stunning blue outfit.

Our speaker for the evening was Kumlash Kummari a trustee of Divine Onkar Mission, a charity set up by her father 24 years ago to support a very impoverished area of the Punjab. At 84 he continues to be the driving force and is still a very active member of the organisation. As a club we first encountered DOM some years ago and provided the money for a water well providing water for four villages and as it is situated on a crossroads it is used by travellers. Our well is just one of the 825 provided so far by the charity as they endeavour to build sustainable communities through education, medical assistance, an Old Age Home and ITC training centre. Single mothers, widows and survivors of domestic violence are found meaningful work in their projects. They are now involved in the rescue of trafficked children, keeping them safe in the orphanage until they can be collected by their families.

' Her Majesty' joined Kumlash Kumari speaker and President Barbara
‘ Her Majesty’ joined Kumlash Kumari speaker and President Barbara







Barbara welcomes 'Her Majesty' Queen Elizabeth on her birthday.
Barbara welcomes ‘Her Majesty’ Queen Elizabeth on her birthday.








A warm welcome from members.
A warm welcome from members to our very royal guest .