Soroptimist International of Midland Chase held its first ever virtual Regional Conference on Sunday 13th September 2020 with more than 120 delegates attending. The theme was “A Drop In The Ocean – Making Waves” – focusing on how small actions can multiply up to create waves of positive change.
Special thanks go to Paul Little whose Zoom expertise helped bring many of us together for the first time in six months, and to the organising team comprising members from several of the region’s clubs, for responding so flexibly and professionally to the changing circumstances created by CV-19. As Federation President Isobel remarked “it’s all about how you get round obstacles” and Soroptimists are great at that!
SIGBI Vice President and Southend-on-Sea & District Member Cathy Cotteridge, our first speaker, brought us up-to-date on the Centenary preparations for 2021. Soroptimist International was founded back in 1921 in California and one of their first major successes was to save giant redwood trees. So it’s completely fitting that we are encouraged to plant trees to celebrate “a bright past and build a brilliant future”. You can learn more about our Centenary Projects here, but one simple thing we can all do to help is to change our search engines to ECOSIA to raise funds for tree planting projects across the world. A lunch at the House of Lords is also planned for 12th May next year so let’s hope this will enable us to come together face-to-face
Our second speaker was Phillip Holmes, Founder and CEO of the Chora Chori project in Nepal. Empowering Girls In Nepal is our four-year Federation project for 2019 – 2022. Unfortunately COVID has put on hold most of the charity’s work this year, but plans are ready for when work can resume and the charity is building up a fighting fund to leverage new projects into life as soon as it can. With strong input from its clubs, SIGBI has already funded a tailoring skills training centre for girls who have been rescued from trafficking. The Big Story – won by June Money of SI Guernsey with her personal story of “Memories of an Occupation” – was a resounding success, raising over £20k for matched funding for the charity, and Chora Chori is now looking into broadening its project base by working with a partner organisation to produce artisan products made from natural fibres grown locally for internal Nepali markets, initially under the branding “Lily’s Leaves”. Visit Fibre Weave for more information.
Philip asked us to delay further donations until the next Big Give campaign which runs from 1st to 8th December 2020. By donating online then our donations could attract 100% match funding for Chora Chori. Federation President Isobel Smith also confirmed that our first year donations across the Federation now stand at £51,000 – exceeding our year 1 target – and we are now one of Chora Chori’s major funders.
Our final speakers were Tom Mecrow from RNLI and Zahor Al Kharousy and Muhammad Said from the Panje Project in Tanzania. With input from the RNLI the Panje project provides Aquatic Survival programmes which teach water safety education and practical swimming. In 2014 the programme targeted women and girls as historically women and girls didn’t swim. Engaging with local communities they overcame cultural challenges which included designing costumes which covered heads, arms and legs, and training female swimming instructors to hold women and girl-only lessons. Panje Project is now expanding its activities via local people and community groups.
President Margaret Galuszka closed the conference by thanking everyone for their help during her year in office, and commenting what a great success the conference had been. An instant poll conducted at the end of proceedings showed that:
- 96% found it easy to join online
- 99% said the structure worked well for them
- 62% said listening to the speakers was what they enjoyed most
- 60% loved the fact that they could access the conference in full from home and most importantly of all…
- 100% enjoyed it and would take part in a similar online event
So some great learning for the future and a very enjoyable Sunday morning well-spent!
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