Club Speakers 2019 – 2020
SPEAKERS – PRESIDENTIAL YEAR 2019 -2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Continuing the club interest in Alzheimers/Dementia, Karen Perry from ‘Fiddle Fingers Quilts’ www.fiddlefingersquilts.co.uk 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
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).
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
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.