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A Royal Gong for a ‘WinWin’ Project for Girls and UK PLC


Pres’ Liz & Catherine with Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell.


Soroptimist International Bournemouth had a double celebration on the 15th September when they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) from The Lord Lieutenant of Dorset as well as observing the club’s 80th Anniversary.

The club was honoured with the QAVS which is the nation’s highest award for exceptional voluntary service – the equivalent of an MBE – in recognition of their highly successful development of the STEM Challenge (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) for girls in local schools. Joint Presidents, Catherine Beal and Liz Dominey, on behalf of the club, received a signed certificate and an English Crystal with the QAVS logo insignia from the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, who made the presentation on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.

The STEM challenge has been running since 2013 and encourages girls to challenge stereotypes and seek careers involving science, technology, engineering and maths which will also be beneficial to the future of UK PLC.

The challenge involves small teams of girls in Years 8 and 9 working on a project of their choosing that has the potential to help people in the poorest parts of the world. 2018 Winners presented their winning projects and are students from St Peters School, Southbourne and Ringwood School. The former produced a face mask with ear flaps for health workers when working with people suffering from Ebola combined with a hand sanitiser for use by everyone and was made from naturally occurring products and therefore sustainable; the latter group produced a flat pack cot for refugees and people without tools to prevent cot death in areas where people are living in very crowded conditions. The cot clipped together, was light and could be made to variable sizes and was on a stable 3 legged base. The Lord Lieutenant enthused that he was “very impressed by the young people’s presentation and am really impressed by your club and the warm welcome I have received, your award is really well deserved.”

The celebratory events gave a fitting recognition of the STEM Challenge coinciding with the culmination of 80 years of voluntary service by SI Bournemouth. Members from as far away as Australia and all corners of the UK attended the anniversary celebrations which took place over the weekend of 14th to 17th September.  It was a pleasure to give them a ‘taster’ of the Bournemouth area which will be hosting the SI Great Britain & Ireland Federation conference in the autumn of 2019 when 1200 soroptimists from all parts of the world are expected to attend. Joint President, Liz Dominey, reflected, “We have had a wonderful weekend of celebration of our 80th anniversary and receiving the QAVS with friends from all over the world. This has inspired us to work even harder to help those women and girls less fortunate than ourselves”

Shirley Thompson, President at the time of the QAVS nomination and Bobbie White, then Immediate Past-President and stalwart leader of the STEM Challenge from its inception, represented the club at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party hosted by Prince Charles on 5th June in recognition of the club’s “outstanding contribution to the local community”.

SI Bournemouth is most grateful to The Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, to Ian Jones, Head of Regional Community Partnerships, Office of the Vice-Chancellor at Bournemouth University for the nomination for this award and to Andrew Tate, Head of In-Service Support, RNLI and Angharad Holloway, Head at Talbot Heath School for their support of the nomination for this award.

In their support submission for the nomination, Bournemouth University referred to the opportunity for girls to challenge stereotypes and to develop research skills, team building, creative thinking and communication skills. Praising the club Ian Jones said that “the amount of time and effort spent by SI Bournemouth in ensuring the competition is successful every year was quite extraordinary, and that the dedication shown by the organisers should be applauded as they are truly committed to both inspiring and practically supporting the girls and young women from many schools.” Andrew Tate referred to SI Bournemouth working in partnership with schools, businesses, the university, charities and individuals, making it “truly collaborative” within the local community and “that it calls for a huge personal commitment, dedication, enthusiasm, time, effort and energy to ensure sustainable results.” Angharad Holloway enthused, “SI Bournemouth has made a significant impact on a number of our pupils pursuing careers in STEM.  Our school is introducing a ground breaking type of education, focusing on STEAM, and this is due, in part, to the initiatives that have resulted from the SI Bournemouth events locally.”