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Programme Action

Programme Action is the core of our work.

Our overall aim is to Educate, Empower and Enable girls and women in our local community, nationally and worldwide. The work may come in the form of action, awareness-raising or advocacy.

Summer 2020

How our materials were put to use, making scrubs bags

We didn’t realise at our last club meeting in early March that we wouldn’t be gathering together again in the foreseeable future.  However, we are keeping our eyes peeled for work to be done, mainly in our community.

Some of the bedding donated by members


On learning that bedding was wanted by volunteers sewing for the NHS in Darlington, members donated sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases.  Later on a collection of sewing threads and buttons was made and these were used to make head bands to protect the ears of face-mask-wearers from the elastic bands.

Thanks to Facebook, we heard that the Women’s Refuge was in desperate need of disposable gloves and other PPE.  Members responded quickly and gave what they had available: gloves, masks, and cleaning equipment.  One member-to-be is making masks, aided by donations of elastic by club members.

We have also been supporting Family Help by nominating them – both as a club and as individuals – for a donation of £1,000. The money would come from Movement for Good, and would make a real difference, helping the Refuge to continue providing its full service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Red Box Project

Maureen was on duty for two hours and Barbara put in 90 minutes at the Red Box information/collection point on Saturday 6th April. We also handed over another collection of donations from club members. Had some interesting conversations with customers and received generous donations of cash and products. Now Carol Marchant has sent the club this Thank You certificate!


Elspeth Robinson left Darlington for Kumi, Uganda at the beginning of March for one month. She took with her our good wishes and a donation of £50 to purchase AFRIpads.  She kept all her Facebook followers well-informed about her work with her daily diary and wonderful photos.


Support for local projects

At the February 26th meeting it was good to be able to hand our donations directly  to the organisers and hear how useful they will be.

Buddy Bookmarks

Some time ago we received a generous legacy from our dear, much-missed club member Eva Schumacher-Reid. We gave a great deal of thought about how best to use it, and finally decided to update the primary school version of our Loves Me, Loves Me Not Bookmarks. We thought we would tweak the wording a bit, change the colours, that sort of thing. Then Carole Sobkowiak, our rep at Healthwatch Darlington meetings, discussed the matter with the YMCA. To cut a long story short, the young people involved in the Co-Production Network studied our LMLMN bookmarks and decided to bring them into the digital age.

On February 18th an invited audience saw the mayor reveal the new design and heard speakers from Darlington Brough Council, the YMCA and Darlington Safeguarding Boards.

Buddy Bookmarks will be used to start conversations about friendship and positive relationships. The YMCA are already using the materials and have given good reports. One girl used her bookmark to make a Valentine’s Day card.

More Food for Thought

Tinned and dried food, toiletries and a couple of garments: donations brought to the club meeting for Food for Thought Darlington’s next event on February 16th.

President’s Charity

Dorothy travelled to Pakistan in early January and is seen making presentations to Pervase, the principal of St Gabriel’s School, which is supported by her chosen charity: Hope Through Education. The charity’s mission is to help children and young people to obtain an education regardless of their financial background. The club donated £1500, and many members gave Dorothy pencils to deliver to the school.

Food for Thought – December 2018

There were two events during the month: on December 15th a “pre-Xmas Extravaganza” at which Barbara helped run the tombola, (about a third of the approximately 100 prizes had been donated by our club members), and on December 28th a “Post-Xmas Blues Buster, where she sorted donated clothes and then put on her pinny to wait on table. Great fun had by all! We look forward to welcoming Louise Graham, one of the founders of FFTD, at our February 26th meeting, when she and Carol Marchant from the Red Box Project will speak.


Humanity & Inclusion – Forgotten 10 Challenge 2018

Following H.I.’s guidelines, we sent a letter to our M.P. about the Stop Bombing Civilians Campaign. The campaign is calling on the UK and states all over the world to improve the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We asked Jenny Chapman to raise the matter in Parliament either with a written or oral question. We also told her about our involvement with H.I. over many years. Within a week we received a reply in which she paid tribute to our efforts, and those of H.I., on such important issues. She undertook to write to the Secretary of State for Defence on our behalf and will let us know when she receives a response. John McGeachy of H.I. tweeted thanks to Jenny, who was the first M.P. to respond to a letter in this year’s campaign.

Red Box Project

We were contacted by Carol Marchant, leader of the project newly set up in Darlington. It is hoped that members will bring items of sanitary protection to club meetings and these will be passed on to Carol to be placed into the red boxes provided to schools. Barbara helped with a trolley collection and awareness-raising exercise in a Darlington supermarket.

P.A. committee meeting

On day 13 of the 16 days of activism following the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women we had a meeting at Carole’s. Orange had been the order of the day since November 25th. Each day we tweeted statements about VAW in all its forms together with photos of orange things. Chrisy posted photos of herself wearing orange in different locations and reported that her initiative had  inspired her friends to visit the United Nations website. The club’s tweets and Facebook postings were widely shared.

More Food for Thought

It was a very pleasant surprise when our club won the Reach for the Skies award at the September Regional Meeting. It was given for our work supporting Food for Thought, and Barbara received the award on behalf of the club after giving an account of our involvement. Since September we have continued to collect items and Barbara has helped with sorting and laundering clothes.

Food for thought – March/April/May 2018

Members donated dried and tinned food, toiletries, towels and clothing to the pop-up shops organised by Food for Thought Darlington, and held on Easter Monday and May 5th. The shops, together with pop-up restaurants, (using food which would otherwise have been thrown out by supermarkets), are a community initiative to help those struggling to make ends meet. The first event was held at the end of December 2017, and they are going from strength to strength, operating on a not-for-profit, pay-as-you-feel basis. Darlington Sorops will continue to support Food for Thought.

Day of Service – 10 March 2018

Maureen led the planning of this year’s Day of Service, when we organised an afternoon tea for the current residents of the Women’s Refuge in Darlington. Seven mums and what felt like two thousand children had a wonderful time. Thanks are due to Sue and Brian for providing the musical games. Club members provided sandwiches, cakes, trifle, biscuits and sweets. Each child received a sweetie bag to take home – though most of the bags didn’t make it that far! The six Sorops who helped on the day enjoyed meeting the ladies and being amused by the children. The event was a great success.

Spreading the word – 1 February 2018

On February 1st (see the News page) we had the opportunity to do a lot of awareness-raising, advocacy, and even action! We gave out flyers on the subject of how to spot the signs of human trafficking + the phone numbers to ring. We distributed Loves Me, Loves Me Not posters and bookmarks. (One lady came over to ask for a bookmark, as her cat had chewed the one she’d had for years.)  Visitors to the stand were interested to learn about Toilet Twinning, took away Shine’s leaflets about Folic Acid and Elspeth’s leaflets about her Kumi Community Fund. We actively gathered more signatures on HI’s petition; Elspeth was instrumental in obtaining many of these. We talked about Soroptimism to a goodly number and felt the whole exercise had been very worthwhile.

Handicap International – Forgotten Ten Challenge

We collected signatures on the Stop Bombing Civilians petition and took part in the STOP selfies project. The latter got good coverage on Facebook!

As of January 25th, Handicap International is renamed Humanity and Inclusion – with a new logo, but the same purpose.


By selling books, plants and garden produce at club meetings, bit by bit we have raised £50 to give to Elspeth to buy a pack of AFRIpads on her visit to Kumi in November.


1st to 7th October 2017

From 1st to 7th October we encouraged everyone to take part in a survey to establish the extent of public knowledge about human trafficking and modern slavery. The survey was undertaken by the Soroptimists’ UK Programme Action Committee, working with the Modern Slavery Training Development Group, which is part of the Government’s strategy to combat trafficking/slavery. The results of the survey will help them to plan and target their future training. We used Facebook and Twitter to advertise the existence of the online survey. We also used the paper version, and these results will be entered on a spreadsheet and submitted to UKPAC.


Water Aid

Club members collected £119.60 (see below) to mark World Water Day.

Big Spring Clean – Darlington – 27 February 2017

Four club members, highly visible in our yellow waistcoats, again took part in the launch of the annual event to combat litter in the area. We met in Darlington’s South Park, and, after a photograph for the press and a brief interview, we were off to pick up the leavings of the thoughtless! The usual items were found, but Sylvia won the prize for the most interesting litter when she picked up part of a copy of Of Mice and Men.

Focus Group – 23 February 2017

Our club was approached by Andrea Goldie, the Communication and Engagement Officer of Healthwatch*, to help provide feedback about the new Blueprint for Health that has been developed in Darlington. We were asked because Andrea had found a positive response when she came to speak to us as part of our programme. We are therefore one of a small group of organisations who were invited to be a Focus Group within the town.

The Programme Action Committee met with Andrea and her colleague Jodi Craggs, the Information and Signposting Officer, on 23rd February. The main remit was centred on discharge management, care homes and community hospitals.

In summary some of the main points discussed were:

  • Prevention of ill health in the first instance with personal responsibility for healthy lifestyle
  • Services should be driven by care and compassion
  • Try to reduce the number of missed appointments
  • Improve communications (e.g. when patients are admitted to hospital their social circumstances could be recorded alongside the medical history. This would allow for proper planning prior to discharge.)
  • Develop guidelines for the disclosure of diagnosis to help alleviate stress when bad news has to be given
  • For a service to be driven by care, then further evaluation of the medical and social models is needed in the hope that health and social services will work more closely together

Healthwatch will compile a report for the Care Commissioning Group locally and also for the North East CCG and we shall also receive a copy of this.

*Healthwatch Darlington Limited is an independent consumer champion for health and social care in Darlington. The organisation helps to shape and improve local health and social care in our community.

Water Aid

Between the second January meeting and World Water Day on 22nd March our members are collecting coins for Water Aid. Each of us has a jar in which to put 1p coins each time we flush the loo or have a cup of tea. We look forward to adding them all up!

Darlington’s Walk for Peace – Sunday 27 November 2016

Carole Sobkowiak and Barbara Brown represented the club on the Walk for Peace, which visited different places of worship in the town and brought together people from a wide variety of faiths (or no faith) with a shared wish for peace.

We join the Skerne Scour – Sunday 23 October 2016

The Great Skerne Scour was a litter-pick involving lots of different groups working along the river which flows through the centre of Darlington. Three Darlington members worked with a member of the Friends of South Park to collect litter and the results of fly-tipping, which will all be taken away by the council. Our efforts have been reported on pages in Facebook, which has certainly made our name known to some who didn’t know it before.

Advocacy – Go Folic!

Under the guidance of Programme Action Officer Carole Sobkowiak, we are spreading the word about the importance of folic acid for the development of a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Using materials supplied by the charity Shine ( we are raising awareness of the desirability for any woman who might get pregnant to take a daily vitamin tablet containing 400 mcg of folic acid. Taking folic acid for at least 3 months before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy will help to prevent Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) like spina bifida, which happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant. 40% of the women who get pregnant in the UK every year were not planning to have a baby, which is why it is so important that this information be more widely known.

UN Gift Box

Darlington members helped to staff the UN Gift Box in Newcastle’s City Library over the first weekend in March. The attractive-looking installation invites the public to look inside, where they are confronted with true stories of human trafficking. The dark interior is in stark contrast to the exterior, and illustrates how people are deceived by promises of a better life and then find themselves enslaved in various ways.


5 March 2016

Sylvia Roberts and Barbara Brown wearing our club’s high vis vests

On the morning of February 29th a number of people, including four Darlington Soroptimists, gathered in the town’s South Park for the launch of this year’s Big Spring Clean. A few very absorbing hours later many bags of rubbish had been collected, containing everyday litter but also some obvious fly-tipping from a neighbouring street. We don’t think the frying pan was taken on a walk in the park!


Toilet Twinning

On Saturday 5th March our very own Loves Me, Loves Me Not posters and bookmarks were again on display in Darlington’s Dolphin Centre. This time the stand was organised by our Alma Bailey’s granddaughter, Fahran Thurston and her fellow National Citizen Scheme graduates. They chose to support our campaign on their Action Day and reported a very successful occasion, with 220 bookmarks being given out. Fahran and friends will use their remaining bookmarks for future workshops for NCS students.

The Big Spring Clean 2016

Two more of our 31 latrines in Nepal and Uganda have found partners! Dorothy Thomson (left) and Brenda Stokoe (right) presented 2 framed certificates with photos to Darlington Borough Council leader, Bill Dixon. The photos are to be displayed in the Ladies’ and Gents’ toilets in the Dolphin Centre, which is Darlington’s leisure centre. It should be seen by thousands of visitors, and we hope it will inspire others to support Toilet Twinning.


Helping the Hospice

Two teams helped on the tombola run by St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington town centre. The pictures show Maureen Gorman and Elspeth Robinson, dressed for the occasion in the club’s hi-vis waistcoats and their own gorgeous headwear.

Forgotten 10 Challenge – Handicap International

Bring a Cake, Buy a Cake

On Saturday 5th December club members, their relations, friends and neighbours gathered at Barbara’s house for tea, coffee, and a variety of cakes, scones and biscuits provided by all. It was in aid of Handicap International, and we also had the chance to sign the latest petition. The total raised was £197.50. This superb amount is thanks in part to the generosity of those who could not attend, but still made a donation.

Toilet Twinning

Having raised enough money to twin a further 30 loos during Dorothy Thomson’s presidential year, we are now selecting places to twin with latrines in Nepal and Uganda. We are trying to choose loos where the photos will be seen by plenty of people, in the hope that the idea of Toilet Twinning will spread throughout Darlington.  The photo above shows the Head of Polam Hall School, John Moreland, receiving a picture of a Nepalese latrine. This will be displayed in the ladies’ loo at the school’s Liddiard theatre and will be seen by visitors as well as pupils.

Barbara Brown presents Jenny Chapman M.P. with a Toilet Twinning Certificate for the constituency office and was interviewed and photographed by journalism students from Darlington College. Thanks to the Northern Echo for the photo, which was taken by Autumn Embleton.

The “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” Project Update (September 2015)

The “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” poster has now been translated into Bengali and will be distributed at various places in and around Darlington.  Club members continue to distribute/replenish bookmarks and posters (which have also been translated into Polish), and have been receiving lots of positive feedback.


United Nations’ Campaign to End Violence Against Women

Orange is the colour of the United Nations’ campaign to end violence against women and club members agreed a challenge to highlight the campaign by displaying various orange items in various places around the globe.

Coast to Coast Walk

Regional President Margaret challenged the 14 clubs in the region to complete the Coast to Coast Walk to raise awareness about the UN campaign to eliminate violence against women. Each club was allocated a section of the route, and Darlington & District was very lucky to be given Reeth to Richmond. We did our walk on Saturday 16th May and had perfect weather conditions. The ten and a half miles were completed in four and a half hours (including a 30 minutes’ break for lunch). The walkers were Dorothy Thomson and her sister, Meg, Hilary Blease, Sylvia Roberts and Barbara Brown. The Thomson sisters had done a recce the previous weekend, and were very supportive and encouraging leaders of our group.

SI Anglesey 50th Charter Lunch

9th May, 2015

SI Darlington members Jean Earle and Alma Bailey attending the SI Anglesey 50th Charter Lunch, The Elimination of Violence against Women Campaign.

10 Downing Street on 4th March

Because the club collected so many signatures (521) for their petition, Handicap International invited Barbara Brown to help deliver the over 61,000 total to Number 10.


Pre-Christmas support for St Teresa’s Hospice, Darlington

Barbara Brown and Elspeth Robinson on duty in Queen Street. Kay Lang and Maureen Gorman also did half-day stints on the Christmas Tombola organised by the Hospice. Of course the high vis jackets and festive headwear attracted the crowds!


Forgotten 10 Challenge 2014

Leanne Smith, President Dorothy and Barbara Brown at the December 8th meeting with the first completed petition sheets to be returned by club members. The petition urges our Government to ensure that UK Aid is spent on risk education for the civilian population in countries where unexploded munitions have the potential to maim and kill.


Saving Lives and Limbs

The club was the Hostess Club at the Northern England Regional Council Meeting in Hexham on Saturday 22nd November. They mounted a display of the club’s recent activities, including the Loves Me, Loves Me Not project and work relating to Modern Day Slavery. Darlington had the responsibility of finding the speaker for the afternoon session, and were very pleased to introduce John McGeachy of Handicap International, who had travelled up from London for the occasion. John spoke movingly of the effects of landmines and cluster munitions on civilian communities, where nearly half of those maimed or killed by these vicious weapons are children. The charity’s annual “Forgotten Ten Challenge” is this year challenging supporters to collect signatures on a petition to help save lives and limbs. Darlington & District Soroptimists are working to gather as many signatures as possible to urge the Prime Minister to ensure that UK aid helps provide life-saving risk eduation to prevent accidents involving the explosive remnants of war.

The petition can be signed online at


Anti-Slavery Day

Saturday 18 October 2014

The club had a stand in the Cornmill Centre, Darlington on Saturday 18th October to mark Anti-Slavery Day and raise awareness of Modern Day Slavery.  We displayed posters and flyers from the Purple Teardrop Campaign. Over 200 leaflets, along with copies of the Modern Day Slavery Community Questionnaire were given out and we got over 100 signatures on the Purple Teardrop Campaign’s petition to ban sex for sale advertising.  Jenny Chapman M.P. joined us during the morning and helped distribute leaflets and talk to people, along with 17 club members who volunteered their help throughout the day.  For further details/information on the Purple Teardrop Campaign please click on the following link

Update August/September/October 2014

The Polish language version of our Loves Me, Loves Me Not posters and bookmarks are now ready and are being given out.


The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

We joined the global #timetoact photo campaign with this photo taken in Darlington’s South Park on the evening of June 5th.

Loves Me, Loves Me Not up-date (May/June 2014)

With the help of primary school teachers and children, the message on our bookmarks and posters has been adapted to be suitable for younger children. The materials are now being distributed by club members to schools in Darlington and District. An edition in Polish is being produced as well. Contacts with the police have led to the bookmarks’ finding another way into schools: with Jet and Ben, County Durham’s community police dogs.


Litter Pick

24 April 2014

Darlington and District Club Members, Maureen Gorman, Barbara Brown, Gypsy Nichol, Elspeth Robinson, Sylvia Roberts and Lyn Kerr set out on Thursday 24th April to pick up litter at Broken Scar picnic area, as part of the Litter Free Durham Initiative.  12 bags of litter were collected, contents of which included, beer cans, various socks, empty tins of spam and sweetcorn, lollipop sticks, cigarette butts and even a discarded tent!  Afterwards, we were rewarded with homemade sweet treats along with tea and coffee at Past President Maureen Gorman’s house, which were baked by Maureen and prepared by members Jean Earle and Audrey Teasdale.


 “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” Project

The photograph shows the Mayor and Mayoress with a group of Soroptimists and representatives from Family Help, Care UK and Low Newton Prison.

On 31st May 2013 the Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Charles Johnson, launched our new project: Loves Me, Loves Me Not bookmarks and posters – an initiative which is intended to help reduce violence towards women.

The materials, which are being widely distributed in schools, colleges, doctors’ surgeries, youth centres, prisons etc, help to recognise the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. The intention is that by recognising in good time the signs of a potentially abusive relationship, particularly girls and women will be enabled to escape before things go too far.

Funding for the project has come from several sources. Our late member Betty Herman left us a legacy of £500. DASAN (Domestic and Sexual Abuse Network) and Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for County Durham each provided £409. At the beginning of December we heard that our bid for funding from the Rothley Trust had been successful. We have received £750 from the Trust, due to the excellent hard work of our member Jean Earle, who prepared the documents for our bid.

We publicised the project at a Health Roadshow at Darlington’s Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, on a DASAN stand in the Dolphin Centre on White Ribbon Day (November 25th) and on our stand at the Sunday People’s Market on December 1st.

Sunday People’s Market

On our market stand we also collected signatures in support of Handicap International’s Forgotten 10 Challenge: calling on the UK government to ensure that aid reaches injured and disabled people affected by the Syria crisis. Together with our own “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” display, we exhibited pictures and information supplied by Handicap international and gave out pens and balloons. A number of club members helped on the stall throughout the day.


Meeting with Darlington’s M.P.


* At our second November meeting in 2012 members signed in support of Handicap International’s letter calling for the Royal Government of Cambodia to accede to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as soon as possible.

The letters were to be delivered to the Embassy on Monday 3rd December: International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We also watched a DVD about cluster munitions, which was part of a pack of materials provided by Handicap International. During the coffee break, a power point presentation was played, showing a day in the life of a woman who works as a de-miner in Senegal. Lively discussion in small groups followed, during which we tried to create an order of priority for actions needed to deal with cluster munitions and their aftermath.


* We have been looking at the subject of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for a number of years, and now we know that this practice is being carried out in this country we feel it is high time to take some action. Although FGM is illegal, no prosecutions have yet taken place. Wondering if this is connected with lack of knowledge, we have been writing to local authorities to find out what training about FGM is given to front-line staff. Other clubs in the Region of Northern England have recently joined us in letter-writing and we are also asking our Friendship Link clubs to make enquiries in their areas. We aim to get a full picture of what training is available – and actually accessed by the people who require it.



* We have been supporting Family Help (The Women’s Refuge) for many years. Since 1998 we have supplied Welcome Bags of toiletries for women arriving at the Refuge and since 2006 our Starter Boxes filled with cleaning materials have been given to women leaving the Refuge to set up their own homes.


* The Darlington Social Club for the Blind and Visually Impaired asked for help with the sewing up of items knitted by their members. Angela Stevenson (see photo) and Alison Harrison took up the challenge and did sterling work from 2010 till 2013, (when Alison moved back to Scotland), working on hats, children’s jumpers, baby clothes, dolls’ clothes, teddies, meerkats and Peppa Pigs. Angela worked at home; Alison joined the Social  Club members every two weeks to sew as required, and she also took items home for completion.


* Within the framework of Programme Action, the club also supports the Kumi Community Fund, which was initiated by one of our members, Elspeth Robinson. The charity provides continuous outreach clinics where a medical team assesses the needs of children and adults with disabilities in the Kumi area of Uganda. Every year Elspeth travels to Kumi to deliver equipment and to give practical help. While at home in Darlington, she works tirelessly to raise funds for this cause. Club members help at the annual At Home event (see photo: 1st June 2013) and have also assisted at supermarket bag-packing fund-raisers.