Programme Action is the core of our work and we can again be proud of our achievements during the past year (2018/2019).
Our President’s Charity was Carers in Hertfordshire and we know that the £1,275 which we raised from our popular and successful Quiz Night will be put to good use in their work of providing practical and emotional support to those undertaking a caring role across the county.
We were delighted with the continued success of our Wine into Water evening when we raised £900 for WaterAid, and our local Isabel Hospice benefited to the tune of £740 from our Afternoon Tea Party enjoyed by friends and neighbours in the garden of one of our members on a glorious day in July. Additionally, we have sent useful sums to our Federation project – Meru Women’s Garden Project in Kenya – and to our International President’s charity – Women, Water and Leadership.
Our Diamond Education Award which goes to a local female student studying Engineering at Higher Education level is now in its fourth year, and we were delighted to hear recently that our first recipient has now graduated and found relevant employment. This sits alongside two prizes awarded to girls in two local schools.
We have continued to support our local Food Bank, Safer Places (women’s refuge), The Living Room (a centre dealing with addictions of all sorts), and the Hertford Disability Support Group. The washing up bowl project begun last year has really taken off and we have delivered to Safer Places 32 bowls with essential cleaning items for women moving out of Refuge and into their own accommodation. At Christmas time, instead of presents for children, we were asked if we could provide unwrapped gifts suitable for women so that the children could choose gifts to give to their mothers.
Our signing up to Lend with Care has been most gratifying. From our original sum of £250, we have now loaned £570 and £340. 64p has been repaid. Since April 2018, 21 loans have been given to 217 female entrepreneurs, thereby benefiting 812 family members and creating 6 jobs. Such a worthwhile and productive way of empowering women in developing countries!
Our conversation classes with “our Syrian ladies” in support of the work being done by Herts. Welcomes Syrian Families were very well received, but sadly tailed off in the summer owing to child care and transport issues. We are delighted that these are now up and running again and we shall continue to offer our support for as long as it is needed.
As we do not have a President for the year 2019/2020, we have decided to divide the proceeds of our ever popular Quiz Night between the Living Room and Safer Places. To this end, we have invited representatives from both these organisations to come and talk to us as part of our programme. This will remind longer standing members of the valuable work being undertaken in our community, and new members will gain insight and a better understanding of why our support matters.
Still at the local level, we will endeavour to replicate our successful afternoon tea party in aid of Isabel Hospice; the work of the hospice touches so many lives in our area.
As always, we shall mark World Water Day in March with our Wine into Water evening. As well as enjoying a fun evening, we recognise the vital and life-changing work undertaken by our partners WaterAid across the globe. The supply of fresh, clean water to communities is of special benefit to women and girls, leading to improved health and better educational opportunities for girls.
Our Frugal Supper will support our Federation Project. This will be either “The Meru Women’s Garden Project” which finishes in October and aims to educate and empower women and girls in Kenya, or it will be our first contribution to the new Federation Project “Empowering Women in Nepal”
Although we do not see our Christmas Party as a fundraiser but rather as a happy social event, we do normally hold a raffle, and the proceeds of this will be sent to the International President’s Human Rights Day Appeal.
Our Diamond Engineering Award Supper will take place in August in order to fund our next award to a young woman studying Engineering. We very much enjoy meeting and talking to the recipients. We shall also be awarding prizes two local schools; one awarded in memory of a former Soroptimist who was Deputy Head at the school, and the second to a female student for service and leadership.
Throughout the year we shall continue to collect emergency toiletry items for the refuge, together with gifts at Christmas and, of course, washing up bowls. We will also collect required items for the Living Room in Stevenage (as a centre which addresses addictions of all kinds, it can be instrumental in keeping women in particular from incurring a custodial sentence).
This year, we have decided not to continue with collecting for the Food Bank: members are already contributing generously as they go about their food shopping.
At regional level, we are happy to continue to co-ordinate the collection of jewellery, the proceeds from which go to the Federation’s Diamond Education Grant.
We shall honour our twice yearly commitment to Hertford Disability Support Group, providing the entertainment and refreshments at their social evening in October, and sandwiches, scones and cakes in March. It is a small way of helping to enhance the lives of local people living with disabilities, the vast majority of whom are women.
We are grateful to Dee Thomas for taking over the management of our “Lend with Care” account where we shall, of course, be focusing on the empowerment of women or women’s groups.
We will continue to campaign for prison reform, and against human trafficking, FGM and domestic abuse, lobbying our MPs and signing petitions whenever appropriate.