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Presidents Message and Newsletter – Number 76


Good Morning Sister Soroptimists,

I do hope you have recovered from any storm damage and loss of power caused by Storm

Arwen and to a lesser extent Storm Barra.  Although I had an enjoyable Christmas Lunch on Tuesday with a group of friends the short walk back to the car was quite a challenge –  Storm Barra had blown up during our lunch!  However, we all managed to get back safely so hopefully you kept safe.  Unfortunately, other parts of the world have been suffering with the unusual weather conditions too.  In America the severe tornadoes have caused havoc resulting in at least 200 deaths and a great deal of structural damage.  Again it makes us think about what we can do to prevent these extreme climate changes.

After being so impressed by the work of the West End Women and Girls Centre when Huffty gave her presentation at our Regional Council Meeting (RCM) I decided, as well as other Soroptimists from the Region,  I would like to support them at their AGM.  On 10th December, I enjoyed “meeting” members of staff,  the Board of Directors and other volunteers who are all committed to the development of the Centre and the community. Although Huffty had given an excellent ‘flavour’ of the inspirational projects in which she is involved at our RCM,  the AGM gave further details.  It was interesting to hear about plans for 2022 such as the 40th anniversary celebrations which should have been held this year, the small holding to be developed in Northumberland and the women’s library being built by women at the Centre.

I am delighted to hear that a number of clubs were impressed by the work undertaken by Huffty and her team and have already allocated funds to donate money for the planting of trees at their small holding in Northumberland.  Hopefully there may be there other ways for the Region to support the Centre thereby improving the lives of women and girls.

A couple of weeks ago I came across The Richard Dimbleby Lecture which was most interesting and fitted in with my theme of exceptional women.  It was delivered by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert,  Professor of Vaccinology, Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Oxford University.  The lecture “Vaccine vs the Virus :  This race, and the next one”,  and outlined the development of the current pandemic and the vaccine to overcome the disease COVID-19.  The importance of researchers working together highlighted how it was possible to produce a new vaccine so quickly however the challenges that had to be faced were stressed.  On of these challenges was lack of funding and explained how scientists are spending undue amounts of time searching for funding sources.

Professor Gilbert explained that investment is needed in vaccine manufacture, particularly in Africa, to ensure it has its own modern manufacturing capabilities producing its own supply of vaccines.  She also stated that “just as we invest in armed forces…….. to defend against wars,    we must invest in people…….. to defend against pandemics.”  For those interested it is worth reading her lecture which is readable and puts the pandemic into perspective with the future pandemics.  ( Lecture is available via the BBC’s iPlayer or simply google the Richard Dimbleby Lecture.)

To finish,  I hope you are all well prepared for Christmas and have a wonderful time with your family and friends over the Festive Season.  I also send you all good wishes for 2022 and look forward to contacting you again in our next NewsleTTer on 9th January. Take care and look after yourselves

Best wishes –   President Pam

🎁   💕   🍾   🍷   🍽   🥂   🤗   🌲🌲🌲      🎁   🔔    🌈   🦌 🦌  🦌   🎄🎄

Thank you President Pam.

Now we move on to the news from our Clubs.  

First report is from S.I.Sunderland who are proud to tell us about the three new members who spoke at their supper meeting on 10th November :

Denise Hepplewhite who runs Apextra told us how they design and deliver creative learning opportunities for adults and families which is delivered in community settings and schools.  This is often the first step for the individual to life long learning as well as personal and social development.


These were such interesting presentations showcasing how talented our members are.  (Editor :  I am sure that we all give a warm welcome to these new members in our special Centennial year   –  do any other clubs have new members whose skills and knowledge we could share ?) Our other reports this time are centred on the theme of Festive Gifting and show something of the range of projects and donations that members supported.

On 21 November,   S.I. Stockton-on-Tees reported that they delivered a huge collection of items to Stockton and Billingham Food Bank.  For many reasons the demand on food banks is increasing and the club collected together food, toiletries, sanitary products, bedding and clothing. Club member Julie Everson and husband handed the goods over to a grateful and appreciative manager Helen Winspear who was also very interested to learn about the work of Soroptimists in the local community.

S.I. Middlesbrough  have worked alongside the Bungalow Project  for a number of years providing treats for the families at Easter and Christmas,   Knitted teddies for the children and general support for the work of the organisation.   Their latest contribution in preparation for the festive season includes the usual goodies, plus colouring books and crayons for the children.  

The Director and one of the original founders,  Marie Blythe was recently featured in the Darlington and Stockton Times in an article which hi-lighted her dedication to children whose emotional well being had been impacted by poverty, sexual abuse and domestic violence.  Marie’s work includes using play and the language of children in order to explore the difficulties in their lives.   She says “ You try to see the world through their eyes …. you try to gain their trust –  we are not the experts,  the child is”.   

Marie’s current project involves working alongside Redcar & Cleveland Council to support kinship carers,  who are usually grandparents who look after their own grandchildren in situations when they have to be removed from their own parents.  The project provides wrap-around care for these families.  Marie’s colleagues say that she is selfless in her advocacy for these children and an inspiration to those around her.   Members of S.I. Middlesbrough definitely agree !

S.I. Newcastle upon Tyne  have been very busy preparing for the festive time.  A long running project each Christmas has been to provide 25 gift bags for homeless women who use the Joseph Cowen Healthcare Centre in Byker.  This is the only access to primary health care that is open to homeless people in the City.  The Centre also provides bathroom and shower facilities, a washing machine for personal clothing and staff include a psychiatric nurse and access to GP appointments.  The bags contained shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, radox bath, sponge,  deodorant, hand sanitiser,  a selection box, a warm hat, tissues, hot drinks pack, biscuits and one of Patricia’s Angels !  Each bag had a hand written gift tag with warm greetings from Newcastle Soroptimists. 

This photograph below shows the bags ready for delivery to the Centre with President Christine Tomkins (seated on left);  club secretary Cris Young (standing) and Lesley Bowes with a furry friend !

Other gifts that the club has made this year include a £500 donation to the West End Food Bank which will sponsor 100 hot Christmas Dinners for those most in need.

S.I.  Newcastle upon Tyne has also been supporting the Canning  Street Primary School in the west end of Newcastle as they are developing a Forest School for their pupils.  One of their requests has been for funding for waterproof clothing for the children so that they can enjoy the outdoor learning experiences.  The club was able to donate £350 to the school for the purchase of new waterproofs of suitable sizes for the children.   To add to this donation, several members have been on the lookout for suitable boots and warm outdoor clothing as they visit charity shops.  The school has a high number of children who are from refugee families where English is not their first language.    The photograph below is of some the boots ready to be delivered.  

S.I. Carlisle  have continued to help the ladies living in the hostel at Water Street.   The latest delivery to them was a collection of long life foods, 6 sets of casual wear,  3 pairs of slippers and 6 pairs of slipper socks.  Sharon Rhodes who runs the hostel visited a recent club meeting with her husband Peter who runs the mens hostel in Carlisle.  At this meeting,  a variety of presents to help fill the Christmas Boxes will be handed over so that each resident will have their own Christmas giN.

S.I. Durham  reports that they too have been preparing for Christmas treats for people in need.  Each of their 5 P Groups (Peace,  Partnership, Prosperity. Planet and People)  were responsible for buying items for a Christmas Hamper or sending a donation to the Feeding Families project in County Durham.  The food was delivered by a member of each group to various collection points around Durham.

Also  –  Durham members have been planting trees as Joint President Sue Percival with Jane Katsamis went to Camphouse near Spennymoor to plant about 30 trees which included birch, crab apple and cherry trees.  The tree planting was organised through Judith Stirk with her connection and our partnership with the Guides and Brownies.  

The photograph shows Sue and Jane having a rest on their spades on a cold winter’s day ! Joint Presidents Sue Percival and Geraldine Hudson have started their 100 Km walk following the Northern Saints Trails and are raising funds for their “Walking for Endometriosis”  project.   More about this in the next Regional Newsletter in January.

I know that there are more reports on their way to me so I look forward to compiling the next Regional Newsletter for Sunday 9th January 2022.   If you have any news of club activities and members, then please do forward it to me for inclusion.

As concerns about the new variant Omicron develop,  I do hope that you are all keeping safe and well.   Last year we had constraints on our festive mingling and it looks as if this year will be similar.  Geoff and I  recently celebrated a round figures wedding anniversary and did not feel comfortable with our celebratory meal booking and decided to cancel.  The substitute ‘meal’ was a fancy M&S sandwich on Alnmouth beach !   –  but what a wonderful quiet and calm day it was with the low winter sunshine on the deserted sands and rippling sea.  It made us appreciate how lucky we are to live in a such a beautiful part of our country and to be able to access peace and quiet –  and feel safe.      I hope that you all manage some sunshine over the holidays and enjoy some fresh air.   I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a much better 2022. in friendship from your Editor and JIPP

Christine  Lumsdon