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SI London Chilterns Online Conference and AGM a Great Success!

The Soroptimist International London Chilterns (SILC) Region AGM and Conference went online this year with more than 50 attendees – it was lauded by everyone as a great success!

President Denise COI Soroptimist London Chilterns AGMThe traditional change of insignia ceremony which normally takes place at the AGM was held the previous day at Denise’s home. Please see the short video below where the current President Denise Powell hands over the chain of office to the incoming President Helen Byrne. Helen also presented Denise with a bouquet of flowers to thank her for being the perfect President during this time of crisis.

Helen Byrne’s inaugural address took place at the end of the meeting  and is on a separate page of the website – please click here to view 

President Denise Powell opened the meeting and the AGM business was dealt with efficiently – reports had been sent to Clubs prior to the meeting. 14 minutes of this part of the meeting was recorded and is available to view – simply click below – minutes will be sent directly to Clubs in the Region.

Our first speaker was Ann Beatty: CEO of the Steve Sinnott Foundation (and Member of SI St Albans & District). The Steve Sinnott Foundation is an international education charity. This talk marked the International Day of the Girl Child which is 11 Oct.

You can view Ann’s inspirational presentation that was recorded live  (15 mins plus 25 mins Q and A) on YouTube by clicking on the image below:

You can also download and view Ann’s presentation here by clicking on this link SILC Ann Beatty Steve Sinnott Foundation Oct 2020

Ann told us a little about herself, the charity, including its Positive Periods Project and about the challenges and opportunities of managing overseas projects during COVID-19.

Ann took on the role as Chief Executive of the Steve Sinnott Foundation after a life changing experience of living in Sierra Leone for 2 years. Steve Sinnott was General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers,  a champion of “education for all everywhere” and when Steve died the Foundation was launched  to achieve his vision as a legacy. It is a small charity based in Watford and if you watch and read the Presentation and look at the website you can see some of the wonderful work it does. One example is the sanitary protection Positive Periods project in the Gambia and Cuba – teaching the girls via a “train the trainer” system to make their own washable sanitary wear, locally and in a sustainable way, so they don’t drop out of school when they menstruate (50 days/year of school are lost to girls without period products). Over 3 years 60,000 girls have been trained to be able to make their own washable pads using local materials. During the COVID-19 pandemic solar radios have been vital for receiving school lessons and the charity was able to send written educational material and sports equipment. Online learning is not possible for so many people in the world, including the UK so “Connecting” is now a priority project. She also told us about the Foundation’s  Lifelong Learning webinars which are available on line click through to find out more
There was plenty of time for people to ask questions and share useful information and connections with one another which felt great after all of this time without seeing one another.
Ann is also the UK National Coordinator for UNESCO ASPnet (Associate Schools Programme) click here to find out more that will need to wait for another day…

The Living RoomOur second speaker was Janis Feely MBE, founder of The Living Room charity in Hertfordshire which aims to break the family cycle of addiction (both substance and behavioural addictions).

Janis’s talk marked World Mental Health Day which is 10 Oct.

You can view Janis’s moving presentation that was recorded live  (40 mins including Q and A) on YouTube by clicking on the image below:

Janis took us on her personal journey as a recovering alcoholic, now 34 years sober. To break the cycle and recover people need help, and she still attends her 12 Step Fellowship. She told us about her abusive marriage with addiction, depression and two young children. As part of her recovery she volunteered at a drug agency, then studied counselling and worked as a residential rehabilitation centre. She realised that day care centres would be much better for most people and their families who often suffer separation issues when the support is residential. Janis set up her own structured therapeutic day care centre – with a creche! The name came about because it has nothing to do with drugs and sounds safe and comfortable. They provide group therapy and 1:1 when needed. They have a 65% recovery rate which is excellent. All of the staff are highly qualified counsellors and they are all in recovery themselves so they have empathy with and the trust of the clients. Three ex-clients now work at the Living Room. It was started in 2000 – Janis got churches in Stevenage involved as a sustainable millennium project to tackle the drug problem in Stevenage. They had to fundraise and get grants. They are now in St Albans and Watford as well as their original building in Stevenage. They have charity shops too which create funds and work opportunities for clients. There is a new virtual centre too which was been invaluable during COVID-19 which is creating addiction problems. The work of the Living Room is to support the families and carers as well as those with addictions. Many clients have suffered abuse in their pasts and have kept it secret which is what causes the sickness – it is important for abuse to be declared so that they can heal. Not only was Janis awarded the MBE but the charity has also received many awards. Janis can’t sing the praises highly enough of her successor Adrienne Arthurs who took over as Chief Executive in 2016  while Janis became President. Janis said “seeing people continuing to recover warms my heart, life is to be enjoyed, not endured”.

Adrienne Arthurs the Chief Executive of the Living Roomwas also on Zoom and is a Member of the Hertford Soroptimist Club. Adrienne shared this sketchnote illustration below which shows the work of the charity brilliantly. Adrienne said “Janis is an inspiration who left a remarkable legacy”. Adrienne got involved when her sister was in recovery through the Living Room 9 years ago. She said that the online services have been vital during COVID-19 to maintain continuity for their clients and that the staff are incredible.

Living Room Digital Sketchnote

The charity has been helping people to transform their lives for 20 years now. You can read more about Janis and the amazing work of this charity here

This was our first online Regional meeting and we asked for feedback from the attendees which has all been really positive! This is a quote from a prospective Member who is now definitely going to join Soroptimists “I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting (a massive feat for an AGM!). Both speakers were inspirational, I know the word can be thrown around a lot, but I really mean it. I love to hear about other women’s journeys, as I am on one of my own and it genuinely makes a difference to feeling that I’m on the right path, Hearing Janis speak was especially encouraging – I loved seeing her grit and determination to make The Living Room work and hearing that she was able to take her idea and turn it into what it is now. It also helped me to understand their work.”

We’d like to thank everyone who joined us on the day, and hope that if you missed it you will enjoy reading this, seeing the videos and will book for the next one on 12 December when we will mark Human Rights Day. For more dates see the Programme on the website