Improving the lives of women and girls through education, training, better living conditions and increased opportunities in the world of enterprise is key to the work of Soroptimists worldwide; in our club we try to make a contribution to this lofty ideal by supporting a number of organisations which operate “on the front line” with groups in this country and abroad, either through fundraising or through service. We also aim to be proactive by initiating activities that raise awareness of our goals.
Last year, our link to Tools for Self Reliance charity saw us collecting sewing machines and haberdashery to be shipped to a community project in East Africa to enable women to earn a living to support their families and tools for men to use in small-scale enterprises which, we learned from an evaluation of the project, has a knock-on benefit as it raises the self-esteem of men reducing incidences of domestic abuse and enables girls to go to school which could otherwise not be afforded. A centre for the homeless in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Vistarus, provides a safe place to stay and education for women who through various circumstances (such as high medical bills, divorce and domestic violence) found themselves on the streets in a society where there is little in the way of a centralised safety net for the most vulnerable. We have been able to send funds to both of these worthwhile causes.
Much closer to home, we have been supporting “Blood Bikes”, an organisation which provides emergency transport of blood products (eg for women experiencing excessive blood loss in childbirth) and milk for premature babies overnight. This service saves the NHS millions of pounds and is carried out by volunteers, including one of our own members, on their own motorbikes 365 nights of the year. We have raised money to furnish a “quiet room” in the cancer unit of our local hospital and some of our own members read and provide technical support for the East Surrey Talking Newspaper which helps reduce social isolation of visually impaired people.
An exciting project on the horizon is working with girls in local schools and successful women working in the fields of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to promote the uptake of STEM subjects at A level and beyond.
The President’s charity for 2018/19 is Look Good Feel Better, an organisation which runs workshops for cancer patients suffering from the loss of hair (including eyebrows and eyelashes) following chemotherapy; make-up techniques and the opportunity of sharing experiences with other cancer patients enable people to “look good and feel better” when life is at a low ebb.
These activities just give a flavour of what we are currently engaged in but, in reality, the list is much more wide-ranging and reflects the interests of members and local needs. Why not join us to help shape our future? One of the joys of being a Soroptimist is meeting with like-minded individuals at our sociable club meetings and at regional, national and international conferences where outside speakers expose us to a raft of interesting and thought-provoking issues. Come to one of our meetings to hear more or send in your contact details and we will be in touch.