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Our Speakers

November 2020 – Katie Lang, Joint Regional President, SI Scotland North Region

Katie Lang is a well-kent face at SI Crieff, and has been an active SI member for 13 years.  Katie spoke to the club about her journey as a Soroptimist and her current role as Joint Regional President of Scotland North region.  As a new  Soroptimist member Katie had no intention of taking office.  Her first role was the Programme Action Convener for the Crieff club.  With little knowledge, she learned quickly and successfully oversaw many creative and innovative Programme Action projects.  By this time Katie had caught the bug, and she moved on to  Social and Fundraising and then back to Programme Action.  Progression within the club saw Katie become club Vice President,  club President Elect and then club President, all this from a member who did not want to take office!  Katie is well know for her enthusiasm, creativity and sense of fun.

One of Katie’s proudest achievements was getting the club involved with Strathearn Building Bridges, which over the years has provided a friendly supportive, FUN environment to people who have additional support needs in the Crieff area.

Katie has completed a year as President for Scotland North Region, and is currently Joint President for Scotland North Region.

Click the link below to listen to Katie’s very interesting talk about the opportunities she has had a Soroptimist, to make a difference.

October 2020 – Ian Baird, Woodland Trust Volunteer

Ian Baird - Volunteer Woodland TrustIan Baird gave an illustrated talk about The Woodland Trust to members of SI Crieff, an appropriate subject as this is the Centenary of the first Soroptimists and one of the main projects to mark the milestone is the worldwide planting of trees.  This project partly reflects action taken by the earliest Soroptimists to save giant redwoods under threat in California but also the recognition of how essential trees are to mankind.

Although it may seem unlikely to those of us living in what is a particularly leafy area, nationally and internationally there is a severe lack of trees.  Just think for instance of the vast deforestation in Asia and South America, often to increase ground for farming and palm oil as well as building development.  All at a huge cost to nature, an increase in pollution, a threat to health and aggravating climate change.  Of course a lot of timber has also always been used commercially in building, shipbuilding, etc.

We are all familiar with large bare, virtually barren, areas in Scotland many of which do not look as if they ever were wooded but for thousands of years most of the land was covered with ancient woodland.  Nowadays only 18% of Scotland (and merely 13% of the UK in general ) is covered by trees –  and just 4% of this is covered by native species which are defined as ‘species that have been in existence and regarded as being around at the end of the Ice Age’.  Europe does rather better with 38% of land being wooded.

The mission of The Woodland Trust is to create, protect and restore native woodland for people and wildlife and that this should be accessible to the public.   The Trust is involved with community groups, they can provide trees for planting and give  guidance on what is suitable for an area.  The best time for planting is November to March while the trees are dormant.  This year, due to it not being possible to work with schools as they usually do, the Trust has an excess of trees and is happy to donate these along with their expertise to see the expansion and creation of native woodlands where people and wildlife can benefit.  Because of its very nature,  flora and fauna can thrive in such surroundings, unlike in areas where large tracts of non native pine trees are planted usually by The Forestry Commission for commercial purposes, which can often be seen as big regimented dark patches on hillsides.   No wildlife or plants can thrive in such dark areas, unlike amongst native woodland which offers great conditions for animals, insects, plants and flowers as well as ‘the great outdoors’ for people.

The Woodland Trust was founded in Devon in 1972 by Kenneth Watkins, who realised he himself through his work had actually caused some of the damage in SW England.  Along with some others he formed a Trust which bought up Avon Woods in Devon.  Now based in Grantham, the Woodland Trust manages 1000+ woods and has planted 32 million trees over a period of 45 years.  They have almost a million supporters with over 3000 volunteers, 400 of them in Scotland, and are very keen to offer practical support locally to people keen to help the environment.

SI Crieff have plans to plant trees locally with the help of other organisations in addition to The Woodland Trust.

September 2020 – Vivienne Hyndman, Humanist Celebrant

Soroptimist International Crieff’s Autumn/Winter session kicked off with a talk by local Humanist Celebrant Vivienne Hyndman.  As a Celebrant, Vivienne officiates at funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies, mostly in the Comrie and Crieff area, in locations as varied as the Cultybraggan Camp and De’ils Cauldron waterfall.  Vivienne chose as her theme “change”, which was very fitting as this was the club’s first meeting with a speaker using ‘Zoom’, with  all the members tuned in from their own homes.

In her  varied and interesting career, Vivienne stressed the importance of being “open to change”, which helps to “knock on the door” of opportunities that present themselves.  This helped Vivienne progress through a number of career changes , building on personal interests  and skills, such as an interest in people, good listening skills, and a strong belief in paying back to the  community.  This saw her working to build local economic development in some of the poorest parts of Glasgow, and as a history teacher in Perth, where she spent fifteen years motivating and encouraging young people.

At the age of 57, as  she approached retirement, Vivienne saw a useful new way to apply her skills and experience by retraining as a Celebrant for the Humanist Society.  In sharing her experiences, Vivienne highlighted the importance of  making real connections with people – often during periods of extreme sadness and joy.  This is done by getting people to share their own memories, and building on their own unique stories.  Vivienne said “it is a real privilege to be asked to be part of very personal parts of people’s lives”.

The Soroptimists of Crieff enjoyed hearing about Vivienne’s career and found her positive attitude to change very inspiring.

If you would to know more about Soroptimist International Crieff you can visit our website www.sigbi/crieff

Vivienne Hyndman can be contacted at

Vivienne HyndmanListen to Vivienne’s very interesting talk here





Feb, 2020 – Rebecca Dearman, Sapana School in Nepal

Katie Lang introduced Rebecca Dearman, a Supply Teacher at Crieff Primary School, who spoke to the club about Sapana School in Nepal which is twinned with Crieff PS.  Rebecca was responsible on behalf of CPS for the twinning and has visited Sapana a few times.  The name translates as ‘dream’ – the Sapana project was in fact the dream of a local Nepalese man, Djurba, who wanted to create somewhere in his community which was completely equal for all.

The area  being on the plain is not the destination of most visitors to Nepal who go to trek or climb.  A lot of people had been displaced when a national park was created and his vision was for them to be self sufficient, though a Dutch charity did, and continues to, lend some support, particularly to local farmers.  A microbusiness was set up for local women to sew craft items to sell and make money to pay for their children to be educated.  Some examples of their work were available for sale.

There is a local school state school but there is still a caste system in Nepal and Sapana School is quite different to the state run school where all the equipment costs must be met by the children’s families.  The Sapana School is run more along the Montessori model involving more openness and based on play for example there is no writing equipment or such, and importantly, disabled children can attend unlike at the state school. The whole community decides who may attend and CPS sponsor two children there along with fundraising for the school itself.

By the time the children come to leave the Sapana School they have attained the same level of education as those from the state run school.

Over recent years CPS have enthusiastically raised a substantial  amount for Sapana School and it may well be that the ‘dream’ of quite a few local Crieff pupils is to visit it.

Rebecca pictured here with acting Chairperson Heather Robertson.


June 2019 – Heather Williams, Manager Perthshire Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid, one of the Club’s charities this year, was the subject of last Thursday’s meeting and the guest speaker, Heather Williams, was undoubtedly passionate about her work in this field.  Heather has been Interim Manager at Perthshire Women’s Aid since last July and has worked in the Women’s Aid network for the last 16 years managing local groups across Scotland.

Although many people’s idea of domestic abuse is one of physical violence, this is only one type of abuse and a less common one now than decades ago. Instead, the abuse can very often be excessive controlling of every aspect of the woman’s life, checking her phone, her spending, where she goes,  whom she meets.  It can be isolation, not allowing her to see her family or previous friends. In fact sometimes she may even initially look on this, or excuse it, as caused by   her partner’s desire to protect her because of his love for her. Or it may be humiliation, making her feel useless, stupid, unattractive and thereby losing all self-confidence.

It can often result too in the woman blaming herself if her partner is upset or angry, making her wonder what she had done wrong or what she could have done differently to prevent this reaction, feeling it was her fault.  This can result in her using an excessive and exhausting amount of energy, always trying to find out what her partner really expects from her.

The charity’s work is also very focused now on the children of such a partnership for, though the violence may not be directed at them, they can suffer from it in a way which may affect them and their future lives.  Children from the age of 3 to 18 are helped in many ways including trips and holidays.   Now, where possible, efforts are made to keep the mother and children in the family home to provide stability, where beforehand in these circumstances it was more usual for them to flee to a refuge.  50% of women who seek the shelter of a Women’s Aid refuge refer themselves while others may be referred by Police, Social Work or family and friends. Apart from a safe haven, the charity offers a counselling service and a recovery programme.

Heather believed that, through education, an important step forward could be made to break the chain of violent and controlling behaviour and give an understanding of what a healthy family relationship can, and should, be without fear or intimidation, but with everyone having their own space, to live, develop and grow.

After the opportunity for questions, Anne Gilzean thanked Heather and invited members to join her in showing their appreciation to Heather for sharing her knowledge and experience of her work and the very important, and sadly still necessary, work of Women’s Aid.

October 2018 –    Maggie Lennon from  Building Bridges

Members of SI Crieff welcomed Maggie Lennon, Director of The Bridges Programmes Charity in Glasgow. Previously Maggie was an award winning bookseller, ran her own company and was former Editor of the Weekend Scotsman but she started working with asylum seekers and refugees in 2002 and set up the Bridges Project in response to the growing racial tension in the city. The programme has since grown and became the charity The Bridges Programmes in 2005 with its main aim being to find work placements for people whose first language is not English and who have left another country hoping for a better life in Scotland. The aim is to find placements for people doing work at the level and of the type which they did in their previous countries, it is not to ‘steal’ the jobs of others here.
The speaker described the many real difficulties encountered by refugees to this country and the lack of understanding held by many people of their true plight on arriving here, often after dreadful suffering and hardship. She explained how over the centuries there have always been people fleeing from terror in many parts of the world and it is only because until the last few years Europe has not experienced such migration since the end of WW2 when hundreds of thousands of displaced people were moving all over the continent and beyond. Since then, on the whole, there has been peace.
The problems and difficulties encountered by female refugees, who overall outnumber males, were the main focus of Maggie’s talk. Officialdom does not always help, particularly in clarifying public understanding and the wording of The 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention (amended by the 1967 Protocol) urgently requires updating as it is very much written for men. Maggie outlined the many additional problems for women who generally are, and are held as, responsible for the welfare of dependent children but also in some cultures are regarded as of less importance and frequently answerable and subservient to men. In such cases the women are also less likely to speak English which makes their lives even more difficult. It is hard, especially in the current western climate, to comprehend the problems they face.
It was a hard hitting and eye opening talk giving members some insight into a completely unfamiliar and unknown world and one which raised a lot of questions and reaction. It was clear the speaker was passionate about the work done by the charity and the elation she and her team feel when they are successful in helping people in really difficult circumstances..

September 2018- Adam Lang  talks about SHELTER

Adam Lang , Head of Communications and Policy with Shelter Scotland , recently spoke to members of SI Crieff about the charity which marks its 50th anniversary this year.  He gave an enthusiastic and inspirational talk on the background and work of the charity and it was obvious how dedicated and devoted he is to his work.

Shelter Scotland was formed in 1968 and it is a sad reflection on today’s society, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries that such an organisation should still be so necessary 50 years on but sadly their services and help are needed as much as ever.

It is a human right recognised by the UN, that everyone is entitled to a home, but for most of us living comfortable lives here in Scotland it is hard to believe that many children are still raised in poverty and an appalling number of families are classed as homeless while many thousands more live in inadequate and unhealthy housing.  All the time there are also thousands living in temporary accommodation awaiting their own homes.

The word homeless immediately conjures up the picture of people begging and living rough on the streets but it stretches far beyond that.

Homelessness can affect anyone.  Shelter has helped thousands over the years from rich people who, through no fault of their own, have suddenly lost everything, to many who have never known anything other than a desperate existence, be it as a result of family breakdown, drugs, alcohol or many other causes.

Shelter’s main aim is that everyone should have a decent home, which is the basis of a healthy, hopeful and happy life. No one deserves less. Shelter offers advice, information and advocacy to people in housing need and, by campaigning for lasting policy change, seeks to end the housing crisis for good.

More social housing is now being built than for many years and new laws brought in offering some protection to tenants of privately rented houses but much remains to be tackled. Shelter Scotland operates all over the country and regrettably it does not look like its work will be over anytime soon.

7 June 2018     Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund

We were very pleased to welcome a large number of friends to hear guest speaker Kate Darlow, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Borders Hospital in Melrose, who came to talk about her work with the Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund, one of the club’s chosen charities for this year.

Kate explained how she is a member of a team who, voluntarily and using their own time, taking either unpaid or annual leave, visit Uganda twice or three times a year for two weeks to help women who suffer from Obstetric Fistula. This is most often caused by prolonged and complicated labour due to delay in seeking medical help in a rural area where the nearest health centre can be an eight hour walk away. Results can be stillborn births and mothers left with an obstetric fistula, something mercifully rare in the UK but common in Uganda where there are between 50,000 and 100,000 cases annually, causing infertility as well as social isolation because of distressing symptoms such as incontinence. Patients range in age from 16 to 50.

Radio announcements about the Village Project are made in advance of the team’s arrival and these reach many women in remote rural areas giving them the opportunity to get to the hospital for treatment. Normally about 50 women are waiting for the team’s arrival and they spend about three weeks there for surgery and recuperation.

Five days after arriving, in a hospital rented by the team, the highly skilled doctors and nurses start operating using spinal anaesthetic along with other somewhat less specialised equipment. Their work is frequently closely observed by students keen to learn.

There is a very good success rate though it can prove awkward persuading the patients to stay for the required two to three week recovery period to ensure their wellbeing as they are keen to return to work on their farms. Activities such as knitting are encouraged to occupy them as this is productive and social, so amongst all the other equipment transported from home by the medical staff can be large quantities of knitting needles and wool! Patients are frequently accompanied to hospital by family members who care and cook for them during their stay. For many of the patients this may be the first opportunity they will have to meet others in a similar situation.

All money raised by and for this dedicated team is put towards equipment and the upgrade of the wards. They willingly give their time and skills at no cost saying the recovery and appreciation of the patients and their families is ample reward.

May 2018 – Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Project

This year we are supporting the work of the Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Project. The Service works with families where a parent is struggling with their emotional health and well-being or has been diagnosed with a perinatal mental illness.

The aim is to improve a parent’s health & wellbeing  by supporting them to form a positive relationship with their baby; reduce the social isolation of families ; increase parent’s self- confidence.

Catherine and Angie, two of the organisers, came to our meeting on 3rd May and held us spellbound as they talked about the challenges and successes of the project.