Happily I am able meet up with six members of SI Blantyre and attend their business meeting. Just like my club, they are a lively and opinionated bunch of ladies, keen to make a difference to the lives of women and children in Malawi.
Judith (President) hosts it at her house on Friday 18th although they usually meet on Saturdays as most of them are working. Of their thirteen members, Maggie M, Priscilla, Maggie C, Surrey and Lennie are in attendance. I like the idea that they have T-shirt days, i.e they wear Soroptimist t-shirts with SI Blantyre on the back, a good way to raise our profile.
They tell me about their current projects and are frank about what has and hasn’t worked. Glitches and hiccups in no way deter them as they review, refine and plan the next quarter’s activities.
For many years now SI Blantyre has visited a prison, liaising with the staff and women inmates as to what their needs are. To me they would seem incredibly basic, toiletries including soap, food items and seeds to grow their own food.
They want to take their support further and did a needs assessment as to how they could empower the women economically once released. To this end, the women due to be released can apply for a loan, get help with business plans, learn how to keep simple records and eventually make savings. This will enable them to set up a small business of their own. Alternatively, younger girls can be helped to go back to school to get some education.
Another programme has been to assist school girls at a rural government primary school with uniforms, our brilliant Sisters have already given 68 uniforms and have another 40 ready. They have also provided the teachers with guide books and are looking to expand the library which currently fits on one shelf!
This has already had an impact as two girls have now progressed to secondary school and will continue to have assistance from SI Blantyre for example a school satchel, stationary and clothes. They even discuss if one needs a bicycle as she will have a half hour walk to school. Simple things but ones that with out which these girls will not be able to get an education.
I tell them about our bid for the next Quadrennial Project. Lennie, who already knows some of the people involved here Blantyre volunteers to fly the flag and meet up with them. I advise her I’ve already been spreading the word about Soroptimists!
SI Blantyre agree to help us by being our eyes and ears on the ground, monitoring the trainees and subsequent impact these specialist nurses qualified to care for sick children at B.Sc level will make. This will fantastically helpful whatever the outcome at Conference as I know our Club still want to work with Friends of Sick Children in Malawi on this project.
And finally we cement our friendship with cups of tea, delicious homemade cake and some photos!