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June Region Conference – Celebration of Being Together Again

We were delighted that nearly 40 Members of Soroptimist International London Chilterns Region were able to meet face-to-face on Saturday 11 June 2022 for the first time since November 2019! 

The venue was a purpose built retirement village in Sunningdale Berkshire, organised by the SI Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead club. It was perfect and enabled two of our speakers to join us on Zoom with a cinema style screen audio system! (remarkable after our original two speakers were not able to travel to the meeting). Judy Nixon is pictured here demonstrating the “fire-exits” and was a wonderful host.

The meeting was chaired brilliantly by Rita Beaumont (see pic towards the end), the Region’s Councillor, Secretary and one of the “Rainbow” Presidents sharing the Presidency this year.

Our first speaker was Amanda Findlay from FLAG DV the charity is a Free Legal Advice Group for domestic abuse victims in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Advice covers aspects of divorce, child contact, finance, immigration etc We are very fortunate that Amanda is a new Soroptimist Member of our Newbury Club and was able to join us for the morning on Zoom at short notice. Amanda is an excellent speaker who spoke without PowerPoint. She told us how the charity was set up by some amazing women in the Thames Valley area in 2012  to help those aged 18+ when there was a massive reduction in Legal Aid. Only 10% of people would know what to do if a friends of colleague needed help in a DA situation. There has been an explosion of people needing help during COVID – some of the increase is due to heightened awareness as well as a real increase. She cautioned the use of non-molestation orders because it tells the perpetrators where the victim lives, so not always appropriate…  They work with about 160 external agencies with a focus on keeping the client safe and positive outcomes – short term pain, long term gain. There were more calls after lockdown and there are less in school holidays because it is hard for victims to make calls when people are around in the home. They are always looking for solicitors to volunteer to help.

Amanda encouraged great questions from the floor which she handled brilliantly;  questions were about FLAG DV’s geographical coverage, help to ethnic minority women, how it is financed, how its clinics are accessed, the internet poverty gap issue, trends in referral reasons, outreach work with community groups, trends, counseling provision for witnesses of domestic abuse etc.

Amanda finished with praise for Soroptimists she said “Soroptimists are like having an army of secret agents.”!!

Our second speaker was Nicki Nalton from the Alzheimer’s Society – The charity is launching their post-COVID strategy. People with Alzheimer’s have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more people have developed the disease too. This has had a dreadful impact on carers too. Nicki’s presentation is here Alzheimer’s Society SILC 11-6-22 presentation It includes links to two brilliant videos so please open the presentation and click through to the links. Nicki’s notes to accompany her presentation are also available to read here Nicki Nalton Alzeimer’s Society Presentation Notes SILC June 22

Nicki started by saying how the pandemic had badly impacted people living with dementia.  Between March and June 2020, 1 in 4 people who died with COVID-19 had dementia and it was reported that 95% of carers experienced a negative impact on their mental or physical health.  Overnight they were ripped from their support networks, crucial services were suspended, and many spent more than a year without being able to see or hug the ones they love. Dementia is the biggest killer of the 21st century and the only way to find a cure is research – the lack of social care for people living with dementia is also a huge issue for everyone – see the video in the presentation “Cure the Care System”. There is great advice for people caring for those with dementia – a mantra for care is that “there is more to the person than the dementia” – the emotional side of the brain is still active so communication needs to be relaxed. There are 40,000 people under 65 in the UK suffering from dementia, and 900,000 people living with dementia in total. 52% of the population are impacted by dementia! The Alzheimer’s Society has a new Chief Executive, Kate Lee, who is a “force for change”. Again there were some great questions from our Soroptimist audience. Nicki recommended that Soroptimists become “Dementia Friends” and Dementia Friends Ambassadors We recommend all Clubs have a Dementia Friends Club meeting – online or face to face. Sue Granshaw from SI High Wycombe and District spoke later in the day and explained that after hearing a speaker from Alzheimer’s Research UK she became a community speaker for Alzheimer’s Society and she now co-ordinates the work of several organisations who provide dementia support in High Wycombe.

Amanda and Nicki were thanked for joining us at such short notice and giving us so much excellent information and food for thought…

Over lunch Rita showed the video for the Soroptimist International Convention in Dublin 27-29 July 2023. There is  lots of information on the Convention website

There was time for Region business before and after a delicious lunch. Reports from the Region’s Officers were circulated to Clubs ahead of the meeting so only highlights and discussion points were raised in the meeting.

In the afternoon the session was “Celebrating our Programme Action Work” and was led by Pam Robertson,

It was wonderful to have an update on the Kori Women’s Development Project in Sierra Leone by Rose Simbo from SI Thames Valley  Rose’s presentation including lots of photos and can be downloaded and viewed by clicking here: Kori Development Project Please join the Facebook Group to keep updated 15 June marks the 1 year anniversary of the passing of Johanna Raffan MBE, from the Thames Valley Club and who was President of Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland when she died. It was heart warming to see the progress of the tree planting in the Johanna Raffan Memorial Orchard – mangoes, guavas, coconuts, oranges,bananas, limes, lemons and the list goes on…

Next we had an update about support for Ukrainian Refugees by SI Krakow by Gill Curry,  of the SI Thames Valley Club. Gill posts regular updates in the SI Thames Valley Facebook Group  Many of the Clubs in the Region have been supporting Ukrainian Refugees through links to Clubs in Poland and other Eastern European countries.

Pam Robertson, the Region’s Programme Action Officer, (pictured here wearing orange) delivered the presentation from Soroptimist UKPAC – Violence Against Women & Girls: UKPAC Orange Day Initiative – 25th June 2022 sees Soroptimist UKPAC launch support for the the UNiTE Campaign to end violence against women Orange Day takes place on 25th day of EVERY month, not just November 25th – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – Orange the World Day. SIGBI UKPAC will send materials to Clubs for social media campaigns to run on monthly Orange Days.

Pam also gave us an update on the “Specialist Domestic Violence Courts Observations”  — the research project adopted by Clubs in our Region. Research reports are due to be completed by September 2022.

Modern Day Slavery posters were handed out by Pam for Clubs.

Rita Beaumont did a brilliant job of chairing the meeting, which had many problems on the way and everyone agreed was a great day all round so she received plenty of applause at the end! Jane Slatter was also thanked for driving the technology which worked really well thank goodness! Rita is pictured here, on the right with Jane Slatter on the left.

Since COVID-19 our conferences have been held on Zoom (please scroll down through the news on the website to catch up on previous events ). On-line Region meetings have been well attended and have attracted great speakers and guests from far and wide so they will continue with three online and one face-to-face conference each year. The next one is our AGM which will be on Zoom on the morning of Sat 8 Oct – see you there!