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What do we do?

Clubs choose projects to work on that tackle one of the five Programme Areas identified by Soroptimist International:

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Education
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Food Security and Healthcare
  • Violence and Conflict Resolution

All our work is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals whether it’s local, national or international. All projects work towards ending poverty, eradicating hunger, providing education for all and preserving the environment.

Club Members and Associate Members can support their projects by practical and/or financial support, or by Advocacy (lobbying governments and raising awareness of the issue).

As well as supporting their own projects, Clubs and Members also support a number of SI and SIGBI charities and projects.

The report below outlines the work undertaken by Newcastle Soroptimists over the last year.  In the following sub pages, we describe the various projects with which we have been involved for some time and those we are currently undertaking.


At the time of writing this, we are in the middle of lockdown due to the corona virus outbreak. A time when people are cleaning and decluttering so it seems appropriate to be taking stock of the Programme Action we have undertaken during the last year and look to what we can be doing through this crisis and to our future plans when we get to the other side.
Just a reminder that SIGBI Programme Action projects need to tackle at least one of the five Programme Action areas and below is a flavour of the projects we have been involved with this year under the identified areas of
• Economic Empowerment
• Education
• Environmental Sustainability
• Food Security and Healthcare
• Violence and Conflict Resolution
And I’m pleased to report that across our PA Projects we have covered all five.
We have had another very busy and successful year of Programme Action across 2019-20 reflected in this lengthy report. We continued to dedicate one of the monthly meetings specifically to Programme Action continuing to place Programme Action firmly at the centre of all we do.
The ongoing involvement of a number of members taking a lead role in our projects has enabled our members to choose from a wide range of projects to be involved in. This way of working has also allowed members in ‘dip their toe’ into the world of Programme Action leading on a project which may help with succession planning and there continues to be lots of positive feedback from members enjoying this way of working together.
Building on previous years we have continued to work with partners for most of our projects which has enabled us to maximise our resources and gain greater benefits.

We completed our 7 year sponsorship of Kabita’s’ education, a young girl in Nepal, with S.I. Kathmandu, totalling £1400 plus bank transfer costs. Thanks to Catherine Waller, who co-ordinated the table top fundraiser at Tynemouth Market which raised £350. We wish Kabita every success in her future life.

We plan to support the SIGBI Project ‘Empowering Girls in Nepal’ working in collaboration with Charity ChoraChori, the Nepali word for children ( This three year project supports rape survivors, trafficked and vulnerable girls as they rebuild their lives, empowering them through education and training to gainful employment and a future within society.



Christmas 2019 saw the Club continuing its annual support of homeless women in the City via the Joseph Cowen Healthcare Centre. The 25 Christmas bags this year contained a reduced number of items following a review with our partners and a need to stretch our resources with fewer members. Members enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies thanks to Patricia Gatherum whilst packing the gift bags with toiletries, chocolate, and items which make their life on the street a little easier. Thank you to Hilary Brewis and Eloise James for delivering them.
Regular donations of clothing; toiletries and beverages have also been delivered throughout the year. The current experience of empty shelves in the supermarkets will have given us some insight into the lives of these women.


We completed this project last year however, this year we report on the fantastic news that we have been awarded the SIGBI Federation Advocacy Award for this work,
President Chris, Dame Vera Baird along with Regional President Shirley presented the project at Bournemouth Conference and were presented with the award by Programme Director Kay Richmond and Assistant PD Advocacy, Margaret Clark. You can see the video played as part of their presentation, along with a video which the observers have produced providing Regions and/or Clubs interested in undertaking similar work with advice following their experiences on YouTube just search Soroptimist Int Newcastle upon Tyne. Congratulations to us all.


We have continued to provide emergency bags, for the women victims of Modern Day Slavery, Sexual Exploitation through Human Trafficking, and/or victims of Domestic Abuse containing essential new clothing, toiletries and day to day items. Northumbria Police distribute the bags as required and these bags have been instrumental in these women and girls regaining some dignity and confidence. The bags have been supplemented by items such extra clothing items and toiletries. Additional therapeutic supplies have been provided to support good mental health. A further 12 gift boxes containing chocolates and a small present at Christmas were provided for the women being supported at that time.
Kath Shearer continues to keep in touch with the Hub, from where the team of Police and Social Workers are based, to identify items that would widen our support.


This year, led by Cris Young, a group of members and friends took part in the DIVA Walk following a route along the coast from Tynemouth to the Leisure Pool to raise awareness of Domestic Abuse. Well done to all on a cold day.


We were blown away when two very inspiring young women shared with us their personal stories and the work they were involved in. The Safe Project is operated out of the West End Women and Girls Centre providing comprehensive, award winning community based domestic abuse holistic support services on their journey to safer life through a prevention and early intervention, crisis support and bespoke recovery model for all young women and girls (aged 11-25 years)
The services provided through the Safe Project have been and continue to be developed and designed by staff, volunteers and women using their services Their prevention and early intervention work trains and supports young women, many of whom have themselves experienced domestic abuse, to join a network of DA Champions across community groups and schools. To date they have ran 11 safety and Safe-4-Life courses to over 7000 young people
They have over 250 volunteer Domestic Abuse Champions delivering this work and had recognised the need for some form of identity to enable those at risk to seek help.
So excited by their work we gave them a grant of £1000 on the night to purchase the first 100 hoodies designed by the girls which will also include the SI logo with a hope that this will also lead to a raised awareness of ourselves.
Unfortunately the Graduation in March, of 90 young women provided with these hoodies had to be postponed due to the pandemic but we look forward to being able to meet with and work with them in the future.

The army of Teddies, under the leadership of Catherine Waller, continues to evolve. Along with members and a wide network of friends the patterns for teddies are expanding with an Australian ted arriving to join the ever increasing menagerie of animals ready for distribution in their own drawstring carry bag. One even attended Conference and exchanged ideas with fellow tedroptimist’s.

As with many of our PA projects this one is too extending its parameters. Following a donation of wools and Quilt kits, Catherine and Pam Turner have started to make a couple of Linus Quilts. These are quilts, made by members of the Quilters guild are for children in hospital with life threatening conditions. And a call out from Cramlington Hospital for Baby Blankets has been responded to, along with friends at Hauxley Nature Reserve who are helping us to make some.
The ever growing group of knitters and crafters have responded to the challenge to complete a 100 teddies and friends as part of SI Centenary celebrations next year.

Any girl unable to attend school and secure their education continues to be appalling in 2020. We have linked organisations who contacted us to support our work on this project directly with Newcastle West and East End Foodbanks so that donations reach those in need more efficiently. The Body Shop at the Metro Centre have continued to provide a collection point in their shop for the general public to contribute donations which have supplied the West End Refugee Service and the Trafficked Women’s Hub. Thanks to Kath Shearer and Laura Steel co-ordinating this work.
In the most recent Budget, the Government announced that they will be funding sanitary protection for girls at school and removing VAT – a national campaigning success.

A theme the Club has progressed this year is that of good mental health and wellbeing. We had a programme of speakers thanks to Cris Young who also co-ordinated an awareness event in the Metro Centre on World Mental Health Day in October to raise awareness and provide information and education of the importance of good mental health..
Together with partner organisations MIND Age UK and a number of WI groups and Metro Centre staff we provided information and opportunities including chatting, mindfulness activities and crafts to ‘Take time out’ from our hectic lives.
Approximately 100 people participated in the activities, and took information about good mental well-being and where to get help which some people requested. In addition, many busy shoppers took away the message of the day as the streamed by.

We heard about the work of Streetwise, an organisation supporting young people to maintain good mental health and gave them a donation of £100 to run a social event for girls to improve their confidence.













Having identified that very few women had been recognised by the City by the City, we decided to influence a change. Thanks to Hilary Brewis for researching and taking us through the process, successfully gaining acceptance by the City Council to better recognise the significant role women have undertaken through their work and charitable activity.
Dr Ruth Richardson, our nominee, was accepted and will have a Plaque erected to recognise her contribution to medicine, further details are on the Club’s website. A ceremony will be arranged later this year.

Our Climate Change Project ‘Trees for Life’ was launched in November at our Charter Lunch with Phase 1 – Tropical Reforestation, was chosen because tropical trees sequester three times as much carbon as trees in temperate regions; secondly, we found an organisation to work with ( another global women’s organisation ensuring that the planting would be organised and done by women thereby helping them to be economically active; and thirdly the cost – that a tree could be planted for just 33 pence!
Our Charter Lunch was attended by over 80 women (and men!) who very generously filled the small tree envelope at their individual place setting with coins and notes to enable us together to plant 1,000 trees across Brazil, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Nepal, Madagascar and Amazonia. So not only did we celebrate together with good food and good company but we planted a tropical forest which we have now named – ‘Wor Forrest’. Since our Charter Lunch we have also been able to ‘grow’ Wor Forrest a little bit more so that it now has 1,224 trees, and together we have also managed to improve the economic status of many women and girls and their communities.
‘Trees for Life’ Phase 2 – our UK approach was launched on International Women’s Day in March 2020 when with the generosity of Dobbies Garden Centre, Gosforth we planted our first tree, a Silver Birch, in the UK at their Gosforth Garden Centre. Luckily lots of Club Members were able to attend and so we finished with coffee and cake in the café afterwards!

We are very grateful to Dorothy Sisterton whose 2019 Summer Event not only provided us all a great opportunity to enjoy lunch together on a sunny afternoon at her home, but also for raising £506 to fund Phase 2 of our Project which will incorporate an educational theme during the coming year.

Over the year we also responded to events across the world as they became a crisis. £50 was sent to support those in Australia affected by the awful fires and £100 has been sent to both Newcastle East and West End Food Banks supporting local people seriously affected by the very sudden escalation of the COVID-19 crisis.

We are looking forward to undertaking a number of Programme Action activities with a Centenary theme. You will have already read about the target of 100 trauma teddies earlier, we are also collecting 100 tins for the food banks, and then 100 items of sanitary products and many other ideas. Members have also set themselves a challenge for the Club to read 100 books, maybe now is a good opportunity to start this one.

I’m pleased to report that thanks to Jill Smith, we have registered all of our Programme Action Projects on the SIGBI Database.

We were certainly heading towards another busy year until a pandemic hit. You will see we have lots of plans in place for when we are able to meet and work together again and we will. But until life returns to a new normality, there is still Programme Action to be done, we just need to adapt. There is plenty that we can do despite the restrictions are all experiencing. You could become an NHS volunteer, telephoning isolated and vulnerable people or doing the same through Church and Community networks. Others are volunteering to deliver medicines. Food Banks have never been more needed by so many, we’ve already sent a donation to both in Newcastle, but you can add to the donations via bank transfer to Treasurer Kath or if you are able to go out shopping then maybe pop a couple of items into the collection points at the supermarkets. Or maybe you could check older people in your street are managing. Get out on your doorstep on a Thursday evening at 8pm to Clap for the NHS and all social care and essential workers keeping our food and vital services going during this truly unprecedented time. Most of all make sure you stay safe.

Christine Lowthian
Programme Action Officer


PA report Christmas 2020