Where has 2021 gone…. We seem to have ‘lost’ nearly two years of wondering can we meet, when, how many of us? Is everyone doing OK? And yet beyond all these restrictions and barriers we have managed to meet- enjoying each other’s company, making new friends at Being Neighbourly and keeping in touch with old friends, raising funds, donating to local charities, attending Region meetings, joining the virtual Conference, celebrating Tunbridge Wells’ 75th Anniversary, Theatre Night, Mince Pies and Coffee and the Christmas Grotto when we collected so many donations for Crawley Open House, Reigate Refuge as well as items for local Afghan refugees. We also responded to a plea from Crawley Hospital for toiletries to go to the geriatric wards!
SI Cape of Good Hope asked SI East Grinstead to join the meeting. Alison Tarada received the invitation but unfortunately could not make the date. I attended to represent the Club and as usual they made all their guests welcome. Joining their meetings is always interesting with local speakers describing projects – particularly in the area of domestic violence. It is always a challenge too as access to the internet and power are issues they regularly have to adapt to.
Despite time apart we met over teas and coffees; made a good purple show; helped turn the town into a garden of knitted Forget-me-nots; celebrated #WhoIsShe and Margaret Duncombe in the roll call at Conference; enjoyed lunches; theatre performance with amazing raffle prizes; donations and purchases at the Grotto; turned many squares of differing sizes into a blanket for the Afghan Refugees (Thanks to Hilary and the knitters); and joined the Remembrance Sunday service.
It was interesting to see that the head of the march past were two women. Susan Pyper- Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex and Mims Davies- Mid Sussex MP.
We hosted some incredible speakers via Zoom and latterly in person!! Hosted audiences (at the height of the Zoom programme) to 90 like minded women from around the world. What a year this has been in finding new friends and Clubs. Thanks to those who found the speakers, persuading them to give of their time- often with no payment- to inform us of their work and how that resonated with Soroptimist goals.
A highlight for me was hearing Tania Cubison who turned out to be one of the best speakers I have listened to in a very long while. The content was so relevant to our town and hearing how Queen Victoria Hospital has operated through out the Pandemic was fascinating. Her organisational and logistics skills that she has fine tuned throughout her military and medical careers were certainly exploited to the full. Not to put too fine a point on the seriousness of the situation, QVH could have been put into mothballs – permanently – had Tania and the team not worked on different solutions to continue serve the community and patients from throughout the region and across the UK.
The virtual conference ‘in Llandudno’ was full of ideas from around the UK in how Clubs had continued to offer services and fund raising through difficult times. There was a focus on member- ship. I am delighted to say that Ann Kesteven, (our current membership officer) will work with Anne Sanders who, over time, will take over this role. Anne will be working with Lorna Blackmore who has been challenged to work with several Sussex clubs in preparation for the next Membership month in May 2022.
One speaker at conference was Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE who will be on our screens as this month as she was named as the Countdown replacement whilst Rachel Riley is on maternity leave. She will provide the letters and numbers for contestants. 31-year-old Anne-Marie is a mathematician and entrepreneur and was voted the Most Influential Woman in UK IT 2020. She is CEO and Head of Stemette a non-profit organisation. Stemettes, focuses on helping people get into Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
One other highlight was watching the planets through Steve Pond’s telescope- after a very interesting talk. It was amazing to see the level of detail that was visible… in a Galaxy far far away ( just had to add that last bit for those Star Wars fans). Truly out of this world!
Through contacts, Rosemary was able to reach out to the refuge in Reigate to see how SI East Grinstead could help them during the Festive Season. (This refuge had been supported by SI Reigate which has now closed). I want to thank the Grotto ‘staff’ for their hard work in organising and sorting through the many donations received. This was a great team effort and a service activity that cost just time. Well you all dug deep and the contributions for the women and children were wonderful
As we move into the beginning of 2022 SI East Grinstead begins its 60th year with activities, events and celebrations in the pipeline that our President Elect- Sue Darney is planning.
What a year it will be!