The Heart of Soroptimism is Programme Action
2017/2018 proved to be a very busy and successful year.
Our President’s Charity was A-CET (African Children’s Educational Trust), which helps to build schools in rural Ethiopia and we know that the £1170 which they received from us will be put to good use and enable many girls to benefit from education.
We were overwhelmed by the success of our “Wine into Water“ evening this year when we raised £1300 for WaterAid. Although part of this total was due to having taken advantage of government matched funding, the generosity of members, friends and neighbours on the night was the icing on the cake of a most enjoyable and fun evening.
Equally successful was the afternoon tea party in July. Our local Isabel Hospice benefited to the tune of £705, when people just kept coming, but the sandwiches, scones and cakes never ran out!
We did of course fulfil our commitments to our usual community projects, but we strengthened our link with Safer Places (Women’s Refuge), by raising £272 at the Kite Festival, and by undertaking to provide, whenever needed, washing up bowls filled with kitchen cleaning products for those leaving the refuge and moving into their own accommodation. Last year also saw our funding of a four week Art Therapy course, delivered by Courtyard Arts, to women in the refuge. The positive feedback we received of the benefits to the women and their children was both gratifying and humbling.
Some members have also supported Herts. Welcomes Syrian Families. Our informal English lessons seem to provide a safe and comfortable environment for “our Syrian ladies” who have developed in confidence and are keen to learn and practise English. Needless to say, members also enjoy the sessions and gain a better understanding of the fallout from war on ordinary families.
Our last new venture has been our decision to sign up to “Lend With Care”. Through the scheme we will loan money to women or groups of women, thereby enabling them to take their business/project further. This has only just got off the ground, but we are very excited about it.
These new initiatives will be carried forward into 2018/2019 and become as integral a part of our Programme Action as our longstanding projects.
For her charity this year, President Sarah has chosen Carers in Hertfordshire and funds raised at our ever popular Quiz Night will support this local organisation which works to enhance the lives of those undertaking such a vital role, the majority of whom are women.
Still at the local level, we will try 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. Although we are unlikely to achieve the magnificent total of this past year, 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 “The Meru Women’s Garden Project” which aims to educate and empower women and girls in Kenya.
Our Diamond Engineering Award Supper will take place in August in order to fund our award to a young woman studying Engineering. We are now in the third year of offering this award and we have very much enjoyed meeting and talking to the recipients. This sits alongside prizes awarded to 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. We still need to develop further our links with schools.
In August, we hope to have a stall at Royston’s Kite Festival in order to promote Soroptimism in the northern part of our area as well as to raise funds for Safer Places. 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 (a centre which addresses addictions of all kinds, and which can be instrumental in keeping women in particular from incurring a custodial sentence), and we will donate to our local food bank.
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 will continue to campaign for prison reform, and against human trafficking, FGM and domestic abuse, lobbying our MPs and signing petitions whenever appropriate. Indeed, last October, we were happy to undertake in our area a survey on human trafficking in order to help inform The UK Modern Day Slavery Training Delivery Group of the public’s awareness of this horrendous issue.