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SI Canterbury Celebrates Christmas

xmas dinnerSI Canterbury members enjoyed a Christmas club ‘get together’ with an evening at The Granville Gastro Pub, Lower Hardres.

Delicious food, good company and lots of celebrating our club’s winning fundraising bid, for the Meru Women’s Garden Project, guaranteed a successful evening full of festive cheer and Soroptimist friendship.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!



16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

day of activism 2As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, SI Canterbury held an ‘Orange Club Meeting’ on Thursday 26th November.

day of activism 1Club members, Nancy and Liz talked about SI Canterbury’s long standing support for Domestic Abuse agencies and the need for continued support for this vital work.

We also learnt more about how the Rising Sun operates to support victims of domestic abuse in the Canterbury area.



SI Canterbury Lays a Wreath on Remembrance Day

wreath 2On Sunday 8th November Canterbury Soroptimists joined local dignitaries paying tribute to those who have died serving our country.

The Remembrance Day event began with a parade to wreath 1 the Buttermarket,  where wreaths were laid by the Sheriff, other civic dignitaries, the armed forces and local organisations. 

This was followed by the minute’s silence and then a service in the Cathedral.

This is the first time that SI Canterbury has taken part in the annual event. The club was represented by president, Jane Webb, and members Sue Pritt and Helen Madzokere, pictured carrying our wreath before the parade.


We Did It!! SI Canterbury Wins the Vote for the SIGBI Federation Project 2016-2019

imageSI Canterbury members, Carol Townsend and Yvonne Freeman, and Martina Gant, International Programmes Manager at, presented the Meru Women’s Garden Project at the SIGBI conference in Glasgow.

This was our bid for the 2016-2019 SIGBI Federation Project. Three projects were presented to conference before delegates selected the Meru Women’s Garden project with two thirds of the vote.

It was a very exciting moment for SI Canterbury and we are all delighted with the result. Now the hard work begins…..




Simple Supper Fundraising

SI Canterbury members and guests held a simple supper evening on Thursday October 29th to raise funds for the Meru Women’s Garden Project.

During the evening guests had an opportunity to hear more about the project. They were also able to view photos which form part of our bid presentation for the SIGBI Federation Project 2016 -2019 at the Glasgow Conference on Friday November 6th 2015.

Great company, conversation and food and £165 raised for women in Meru. A successful Soroptimist supper!

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Canterbury Food Bank Supports People in Crisis


food bank 1Canterbury Food Bank organisers Vanessa and Phil, were guest speakers at our club meeting on 22nd October.

In a comprehensive talk about how the charity operates, they explained that the Food bank is a community project providing emergency (three day) food parcels to individuals and families in short term financial crisis across the Canterbury District – Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and surrounding villages.

They told us that hunger is not just a third world problem. There are ‘hidden hungry’ here in our affluent district of Canterbury. A sudden change in circumstances, such as family break up, illness, an unexpected bill, a delay in benefits, redundancy or reduced working hours can result in people being unable to feed themselves and their families.





The Food Bank’s operating objectives are to:

  1. Build a regular and sustainable supply of food and financial donations to enable the provision of emergency food parcels, education and support; 2. Provide education and advice to assist those in need, including cooking, diet, food safety and budgeting; 3. Build strong on-going relationships with local agencies/relevant organisations to provide support and resources; 4. Recruit and maintain a team of dedicated and trained staff and volunteers from the local community; 5. Ensure all infrastructure – including required facilities, vehicles and materials – is in place and within budget; 6. Ensure a strong governance structure and supporting communication channels are in place to enable the successful running of the charity and to ensure the charity status is maintained; 7. Contribute to the wider debate on the cause and effects of poverty and hunger in the district.

food bank 3Everyone can help by collecting food at schools, businesses, churches, clubs or organisations or just at home and the Food Bank can provide yellow collecting bins. Large quantities of donated items can be delivered to the Canterbury Food Bank warehouse on Mondays between 10am and 11am.

SI Canterbury provides support with monthly food and cash donations.



Fabulous Friendship Weekend

Members of SI Canterbury, SI Versailles and SI Bingley before the Celebration Dinner at Howfield Manor Hotel.
Members of SI Canterbury, SI Versailles and SI Bingley before the Celebration Dinner at Howfield Manor Hotel.

Where to begin! What a fabulous Friendship Link weekend we had. SI Canterbury invited it’s friendship link clubs to come and stay for a four day treat, accommodated by club members.

They arrived Friday and Saturday enjoyed a tour of Canterbury and its stunning Cathedral. Saturday evening a celebration meal was held at Howfield Manor in their honour, with entertainment laid on. Sunday they took a guided tour of the breath-taking Dover Castle, the largest castle in England.
We were blessed with glorious weather. All our guests looked well and rested when we said farewell/au revoir to them at lunchtime Monday. They had an action packed weekend and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Thank you to everyone who played a part in making the weekend so successful. First of all Carol T for having the vision & then implementing it with such attention to detail. Carol & Millie, thank you for opening your homes to our guests. Millie, thank you for the photos. Hazel, Mia and Carol R, thank you for delicious dinners on Friday & Sunday. Liz, Deborah, Yvonne and Carol S, thank you for leading days out on Saturday & Sunday.

This weekend was Soroptimist friendship at its best.

A New Club for Thanet

Following the successes of SI Canterbury varied programme action work, women were asking,  “Why isn’t there an SI branch in Thanet?

SI Canterbury: “Frankly we had been working so hard trying to improve the life of disadvantaged women and girls we haven’t got round to it… until now. We needed women in Thanet to come forward now and join our organisation.”

Thanet Women: “But we don’t know anything about Soroptimists, let alone what they are, or even how to pronounce the word.”

SI Canterbury: We know, which is why we held a presentation in Thanet at 2pm on Saturday 19th September at St Augustines Business Centre, Canterbury Rd, Westgate.

Thanet Women: “Okay but what was the event about?”

SI Canterbury: ” The presentation explained what SI is, how it works, what we do.It answered any questions women and the public generally, might have. It was free and once people knew about SI they were able to make their own minds up.

THE RESULT: We now have a Soroptimist Club in Thanet! Please use our contact page or find our website on




day of serviceFor this year’s Day of Service, SI Canterbury joined forces with Canterbury Women’s Refuge. We know that domestic violence is a huge issue in our society and at least one in four women are affected at some point in their lives.

The Refuge has space for 12 women and their children who need to escape from domestic violence and find a safe place to live. We painted the fence and planted some flowers to make the garden more welcoming.

Feedback received – “Thank-you so much to all of you for your great help today the fence looks fantastic.” J








Evening of Reflection
reflection evening JulyThe July Club meeting included a talk by Hilary Rowberry, Federation Councillor, about the Objects of Soroptimism.  Hilary reported on issues regarding membership, Programme Action (PA), lobbying, finance, marketing and funding.

The aim of the evening was for all Club members to reflect on our Club and the extent which we achieve Soroptimist goals, our expectations, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  Future goals and actions were discussed and we all agreed it was an enjoyable and positive meeting.


4th July Independence Day was celebrated in style at Chartham Village Hall on Saturday with energetic dancing, good food and lots of laughter.


Meadow Folk Band played all evening and we all tried not to make too many mistakes. SI Canterbury & friends, raised nearly £800 for two charities:



Myeloma UK ~ Research into Myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells in bone marrow;

Save the Children a global children’s charity.





imagesStill giddy from our awesome success as our SIGBI bid –  Meru Women’s Garden Project (Seeds for Africa) became short-listed as a potential federation project – members had a brilliant day at the regional meeting in the Hilton Maidstone on Saturday 13th. The event is always well organised and stimulating, and the food and company always excellent.

Whilst at the meeting we learnt our bid for the regional project, ‘Rebuilders’ an enterprise SI Canterbury supports, came first in the members votes and will be receiving a small wind-fall in the near future.

Following this two of our new members were fortunate to be named (out of the hat)  as the ones having their conference fees for Glasgow, paid by region.And, proverbially to round things off, we won 5 raffle prizes too! We definitely sat in the lucky chairs that day.




Our current club President Jane Webb was invited to attend Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday the 13th June to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. She was also invited to bring a guest. As most members were delighted at the invite Jane wisely decided to put the members name’s in a hat. The lucky winner was our new Programme Action Officer Liz Hartley.

 The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is an occasion to deepen our understanding of the crucial role it has played in the development of human rights, democracy and liberty. 2015 is a time to commemorate the individual rights we enjoy today and an opportunity to strengthen human rights around the world.
Jane reports that, “in the spirit of the Magna Carta, the Dean gave an inspirational sermon encouraging us to ‘use our freedoms to protect the vulnerable and maintain justice amongst all people around the world’ “. A statement very dear to all Soroptimist hearts.
 There has been a Soroptimist club in Canterbury since 1964 so it was good to be identified as one of the leading voluntary organisations in the city. The name means “Best of Sisters” and our work involves improving the lives of women and girls locally and internationally.



The children of Parkside Primary, our supported school, held a Story Writing competition.  The only rules of the competition were that the story must be exciting, fun for other children to read and make sense.  Consideration was taken regarding the children’s age and year group.  Miss Black, the Literary Co-ordinator, had a very busy half term reading adventures, mysteries and comedies!  It was an incredibly difficult task to choose winners….which is why they ended up with eleven Gold and Silver winners!

SI Canterbury held two fund-raising events, a quiz night & photographical travelogue, which enabled us to donate £200 to be spent on prizes.  It’s fantastic to see how many books that amount of money can buy.  The Gold prize winners were laden-down with a great stack of good reading to enjoy.DSCF2440


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Gold Winners – The Unexpected Adventure – Sofia (yr6), The Jungle – Raneen (Yr5), The Vampire Hunter – Baylee (Yr4), The Rabbit who wanted a friend – Charlotte  (Yr3), I’m allergic to honey – Samridy


Silver Winners – The Journey to the Underworld – Joshua (Yr6), Slimy the snake and Jeff the beetle –Joel (Yr6), The Bully – Nathan (Yr5), Fartman the Superhero – Charlie  (Yr3), The Supergame –Tyde (Yr2), The Legendery Hydra – Noyen (Yr2)


Tree-seedlins-to-plant-at-homeSI Canterbury is thrilled that their bid for the project ‘Seeds For Africa’ (SFA) has been shortlisted to be a potential SIGBI quadrennial project. Announced last week, our bid beat off significant rival bids to reach the last 3! We will now be asked to present the project, both to clubs, at the National SIGBI Conference in Glasgow later in the year.

Club thanks go to Amanda Gerrard, (past co-ordinator of SfA) Yvonne Freeman and Maureen Keppler (Club members) for all their commitment and hard work.




ss10New President Jane Webb, and Communications Co-ordinator (& Club Photographer)  Millie Brierley, co-hosted a traditional Simple Supper at Jane’s home this week to raise funds for one of SI Canterbury’s Programme Action partners ‘Rebuilders’.

Soroptimists have been holding these suppers since the beginning of time, or so it seems. The aim being to have a jolly good time eating, with company you enjoy, at the same time as raising money. What could be better?

The result? £120 raised!

Pictures say a thousand words – THE FOOD

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Thursday 23rd April saw SI Canterbury’s AGM and the changing of Presidents Ceremony.

Carol Salter, as out-going President, gave a short speech identifying and reviewing the year’s programme action work. She thanked members for their impressive service input throughout the year. She stressed the importance of staying up-to-date with issues that affect women and girls by members prioritising attendance at the four Regional Meetings a year as an essential priority and not an infrequent luxury.

Jane Webb as in-coming President received the Chain of Office and gave her own speech, also thanking members for their commitment and energy. She went on to outline her programme for the year which focuses on UN & SIGBI events and days. Her fund raising focus will be towards supporting the charity Myeloma UK.

Myeloma UK is the only organisation in the UK dealing exclusively with myeloma. They help myeloma patients live longer and with a better quality of life by accelerating the discovery, development and access to new treatments, while helping patients and their families cope with everything a diagnosis of myeloma brings. They receive no government funding and rely almost entirely on voluntary donations and fundraising activities.

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer arising from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell which is made in the bone marrow.  Bone marrow is the ‘spongy’ material found in the centre of the larger bones in the body. The bone marrow is where all blood cells are made.


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Our out-going president Carol Salter, decided to introduce a new tradition to SI Canterbury this year, an annual dinner. Her evening’s theme was one of Appreciation. She wanted to show her appreciation not only to club members, but to family and friends, who offer their time and goodwill so SI activities can be achieved.

The idea was that members could invite a family member, friend or attend by themselves. There were no restrictions on how few, or how many people could attend. This isn’t always the case when members dash off to conferences, seminars or events. Often family and friends are left behind or, in the majority of cases, roped in to help organise, move furniture, transport people or give moral support.

The event was well attended and everyone agreed the restaurant chosen, The Ambrette in Canterbury, was fine dining at its best. Afterwards Carol thanked those attending for supporting her during the eventful year and thanked Suganya, for all her hard work and effort in organising the event and making it such a success.






SI Canterbury are delighted that, as part of our Encouraging Primary Literacy project, on 10th March, Jasper Cooper visited Parkside School and engaged the children for over 90 minutes in a calm and friendly manner.  He also presented the prizes from all the book week competitions and posed for the local press.  Sammy Black, Literacy Leader, said “it was a fantastic event for the children and teachers” and “they would never have had such an event if it weren’t for the generosity and kindness of the Soroptimists, thank you, thank you!  Please pass our gratitude to the ladies who aided in raising funds for the day’s events”.

jaspercooperJasper Cooper is the author and illustrator of The Kingdom of Gems trilogy, a Children’s Fantasy Adventure Trilogy. He has visited many schools leaving behind a legacy of inspired children and enthusiastic teachers. “Visiting a school is a delight for me,” Jasper said, “I love talking about my writing and artwork, and enjoy the enthusiasm of the children. It is great to have the opportunity to creatively inspire them with their reading and writing.”

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Friday 6th March members and friends of SI Canterbury met to take part in an amusing and stimulating Quiz Night in aid of their current President’s theme ‘Encouraging Primary Literacy’. Thursday the 5th had been World Book Day and the event was organised to mark the occasion and raise funds for work about to begin in a nearby Canterbury Primary School.WP_000538

Members have volunteered their time in Parkside to commence a wonderful Storytelling club this term and undertake Drama and self-esteem workshops with the children. In addition Jasper Cooper, a very successful children’s author has offered to run sessions in the school. We would like to thank Jasper Cooper for his extremely big-hearted offer in supporting the President’s theme and World Book Day.

We would also like to thank everyone who came along and took part in the Quiz making it such a great evening. Together we raised almost £300.

The quiz began with the usual format with a couple of exceptions. Teams raised their ‘Bambers’ instead of Jokers and the Mime round brought a smile to everyone’s face, especially the one for 50 Shades of Grey. After this the format changed with a University Challenge head-to head showdown for the two highest scoring teams. Fingers were placed on Bambers, and a few ‘had to be hurried’ on their ‘starters for ten’ but overall it was a great success. The Wind Section stole the show, probably wind assisted and by the fact some of the members obviously went to said Universities!

Great fun and one to be repeated in the future. Next time maybe folk will be raising their Paxmans as well?







IMG_2172 Four Canterbury Soroptimists (Carol S, Millie, Liz H & Jane) went to the lecture given by Michelle McCarthy at the University of Kent’s Tizard Centre ( We learned that women with learning disabilities are easy targets with less access to services and 85% experience domestic violence. Partners exploit the challenges presented by their disabilities, knowing they will find it harder to take action.

The research sample was small only 15, of whom 12 were White British and the others from Bangladesh. All had successfully left the abusive relationship. They had mild to moderate learning disabilities.


  • The abuse they experienced was severe and of every type including physical, sexual, financial and psychological. Relationships are often coercive. The women were humiliated about their learning disability and deprived of access to family and friends.
  • The psychological impact on the woman and her children was extreme with suicide attempts and low self-esteem being common. Often their children were taken into care.
  • The women developed courageous resistance strategies including rejecting apologies, using contraceptives secretly and refusing to cover up for the perpetrator.
  • The perpetrators generally didn’t have learning disabilities but a minority had physical health problems so that the women were required to be their carers. Most of the partners had mental health issues and/or were dependent on drugs or alcohol.
  • Warning signs include moving into the woman’s home quickly; being cruel to animals and a previous history of abuse.
  • Many of the women had contact with professionals but no action was taken unless they explicitly asked for help.
  • Accessible information was lacking and funding cuts reduced the support which was available. Domestic violence is seen as an individual problem, not as a widespread social problem, so women are expected to resolve it for themselves.

It was an interesting seminar but our frustration was that it seemed to be an academic exercise with little thought given to disseminating the findings (other than through academic journals), or informing and improving practice particularly in an era of privatised services and budget cuts. However more accessible information is being prepared, including DVDs, which should help to make women and girls more aware.





On Thursday, 22nd January SI Canterbury hosted a very successful launch for the Prison Reform Trust’s report ‘Transforming Lives – reducing women’s imprisonment’ at Chartham Village Hall.

FullSizeRender3Too many women are still being sent to prison instead of receiving community sanctions and targeted support to address the cause of their offending, says a leading women’s voluntary organisation.

Most women in prison serve short prison sentences for non-violent offences and many have themselves been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Soroptmist International, including the Canterbury club, has been working with the Prison Reform Trust to look at how to reduce women’s imprisonment.

 A wealth of information gathered by 139 Soroptimist clubs across the UK has been distilled into a report that is intended to spur national and local governments into action.

Soroptimist International of Canterbury held a local launch for the publication of the report “Transforming Lives – reducing women’s imprisonment”, at Chartham Village Hall on 22nd January.  Soroptimists highlighted the lack of community provision for women in trouble in the report, which was presented to Justice Minister the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP in December.


Key speakers at the launch included:  Debbie Cox, who spoke about her personal prison experiences and the founding of Rebuilders; Jenny Earle, from the Prison Reform Trust presented the findings and recommendations of the report, and Emma Vecchiolla, Kent, Surrey & Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (the Probation Service) spoke about their work with women offenders in the community which Soroptimists support.



It was attended by representatives from:  Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Kent Probation Service, KCC Social Services, Rapeline, Porchlight, Rising Sun Domestic Violence & Abuse Service, Turning Point, U3A and Soroptimist International.


A focus group hosted by SI Canterbury last year gathered information about services available in this area for vulnerable women, and their findings, together with those of Soroptimist clubs across the UK, have contributed to the findings and recommendations of the report. FullSizeRender15


The report paints a mixed picture of the criminal justice system’s response to women. It profiles some excellent local initiatives whilst mapping overall patchy provision of services for women in prison who are mothers, and found there was little evidence that criminal justice agencies made adjustments to accommodate women with dependents.


The report’s key findings include a need for sustained political leadership, the importance of stable funding for women’s community services, the scope for more effective information   sharing, and the opportunity to share learning about what works across the UK.


The recommendations include:  improved training, protocols and guidance for those working in the criminal justice agencies to ensure appropriate responses to women offenders, greater regard to the needs of children, piloting of problem-solving courts for women, the production of directories of local women’s services, and a roll-out of co-ordinated local multi-agency interventions.




At the start of 2014, Canterbury Soroptimists only had eight members, but twelve months later the number has risen to 20, with four more prospective members being introduced.

Where did they come from and what are the lessons we can share?

Our new members come from a variety of sources. Most were introduced by word of mouth. It’s important that we all talk about Soroptimism so that the women we meet in our daily lives become familiar with the SI goals and values. Millie said that she “was excited and impressed to learn from her friend about SI and its work at local, national and international level to transform the lives of women and girls”.  image1

One or two others were introduced via the website. Carol was looking for something fulfilling to do now that she’s retired. She said that “she was excited to find out about Soroptimism online”. This led her to the club’s website which “confirmed that this was the organisation I had been looking for where I could meet likeminded women and become involved in worthwhile projects”.

One new member transferred from another SIGBI club in a different area. Jane said that “it was an instant way to make new friends who share the same ideals”.

Two more new members were “returners” who’d been SIGBI Soroptimists previously in SI Nigeria and SI Bebington.

And there’s an element of happenchance in how our new members come to join us. Sue comes from South Africa where her parents still live. They heard Soroptimism mentioned on the radio and recommended it to her. Sue looked the Canterbury Club up on the website and learned of the friendship link with SI Cape of Good Hope, which sealed the deal for her.

We have learned that prospective members appreciate:

  • a prompt and friendly reply to their enquiries
  • a speedy invitation to meet one or two members (the monthly social lunch is a good opportunity to talk informally)
  • an invitation to a Club meeting
  • a new members evening soon afterwards to meet the President and give information about SIGBI and the Canterbury Club
  • an explanation of the costs involved and how the fees can be paid
  • having a mentor who explains any questions and makes sure that the new member feels welcome