As a club, we aim to ‘make a difference’ in a variety of areas, both in the UK and overseas, principally to the lives of women and girls. We aim to achieve this through advocacy, campaigning and lobbying, as well as direct help to charities and organisations through fundraising or practical help. If practicable, we prefer to offer practical help, rather than financial, though accept that it is more efficient to work with experts in a particular field of work.
Our current projects are listed below. (For some of the projects we have undertaken in the past, please see the Club Archives section).
President Pauline Payne chosen charities to support for 2023 are International Charity CAMFED and local charity Arts without Boundaries:-
This year SI Sevenoaks is supporting Camfed International www.camfed.org a UK-based charity whose aims are closely aligned with those of the Soroptimists: to educate girls, empower women and enable them to step up as leaders in their communities. Since 1993 Camfed has educated over 2.6 million of the most disadvantaged girls in sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Like the Soroptimists, Camfed believes in the power of women’s networking. Its post-school pan- African Alumnae network CAMA is now 120,000 strong and growing rapidly. The young women in CAMA are entering professions, setting up businesses, achieving positions of leadership – and they are giving back, each helping on average two other girls to go to school. SI Sevenoaks believes that working in partnership with CAMA to educate and empower girls is the most effective way to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.
Arts Without Boundaries
“Vision is for a world where disabled people participate fully in society and are recognised for their talents and diversity. Building on the inclusive model of the award-winning Band Without Boundaries we will continue to work collaboratively with disabled people, the community, public services and the arts sector to break down barriers to participation, promote equality and increase opportunities for disabled people to engage with the arts. By delivering projects and performances AwB will develop positive perceptions about disability & strengthen communities’ Website https://artswithoutboundaries.org.uk/ https://www.facebook.com/artswithoutboundaries.org.uk/
Past President Pat Downing MBE chosen charities for 2022 were International Charity CAMFED and local charity Hospice in the Weald.
Hospice in the Weald
Hospice in the Weald provides care for individuals with a terminal illness and those important to them, in West Kent and Northern East Sussex. Care is free of charge and is provided across five services – the in-patient unit, the Cottage Hospice, Hospice Outreach Service, Hospice Day Service and Counselling and Support Services. The range of services offers a choice of care that fits in with the individual and their family, with the in-patient unit and the Cottage Hospice providing in-patient care. Alongside this care can be provided at home, in local care homes and also through outreach to local hospices. They are also in the process of developing and launching a service for children and young people, caring for children in their own homes. Services are available 24 hours a day providing physical, medical and emotional support to individuals and their families. Care is not only provided at the end-of-life and care is provided tailored to each person as an individual, to help them make decisions that are right for them and their loved ones. Find out more at their website.
Past President Penelope Robbins’ chosen charities 2019 -2021 were International Charity CAMFED and local Sevenoaks charity Arts without Boundaries. We held various fundraising events throughout the years in support of these important and vital charities.
SI Sevenoaks club Projects 2023
SI Sevenoaks Garden Project 2018 to date
Supporting Sevenoaks Town Council in South and South East England In Bloom competition and RHS Community Awards Competition [ formerly Britain In Bloom]
UN sustainability development goals: Goal 3 good health and wellbeing. Goal four quality education. Goal 11 sustainable cities and communities. Goal 13 climate action. Goal17. partnerships to achieve the goal.
In May 2018 a club member saw a note on a Sevenoaks Vine Park gate seeking support from gardening volunteers for Sevenoaks Town Council’s entries in the In Bloom competitions. Eight club members responded with enthusiasm. These members, whose total age is 586 years, remain totally committed to the gardening and willing to continue as long as they can. The town council is delighted with this response.
Open Spaces manager Nicholas Cave suggested the restoration of the sensory bed. This bed is now a real feature of the garden flowing with sensory plants. Its accompanying patio area faithfully weeded creating an area of real calm and reflection. These efforts helped Sevenoaks town achieve a gold medal. Flushed with success, redesigning and restoring the herb garden incorporating a dynamic ‘S’ path in Cotswold stone was completed. It became another real feature. In 2019 and 2020 gold medals were again awarded to Sevenoaks. This success helped by members making doves of peace for the garden in commemoration of VE and VJ days. Obtaining gold medals for three years triggered Sevenoaks entry into RHS Community Awards competition in the towns’ category. This competition is currently judged virtually.
2021 saw great activity preparing for two competitions. Gardening members increased their hours to enable a third area to be adopted already planted with rhododendrons and azaleas donated by a local garden centre. It needed TLC! Huge help was given by the town gardeners so in true partnership, the Reuthes garden is now restored to former glory.
Judging took place in July with the club’s Programme Action officer speaking to the judge raising the Soroptimist profile stressing the benefits of open spaces for all sections of the community promoting inclusivity needed for sustainable cities and communities. Families educating their children on edible plants and the natural world, dementia and mental health sufferers, office workers de stressing in their lunch hours are the beneficiaries, to name a few. The feedback from the footfall has been incredible. Lots of questions asked about Soroptimism and so many compliments and thanks as the beauty of the garden has been a life line for so many.
Imagine the club’s excitement when Sevenoaks Town in 2021 not only was awarded a gold medal for the Vine garden but judged as the winner in the Park category for the whole of SSE England In Bloom competition. SSE England covers six counties.
Service to the community, Soroptimism at its best!
Past President Penelope Robbins and President Pat Downing dedicated a tree on behalf of the club in the Sevenoaks Vine garden for the Planting Trees for a Brilliant Future project on 21 October 2021.
The club continues to be actively involved in town gardening winning yet another gold medal in 2022 ensuring automatic entry in the national Britain In Bloom competition. Eight club members worked flat out in 2023 in the run up to competition judging in August with the result that Sevenoaks town was awarded a silver gilt medal. As well as doing the usual gardening at the Vine two members restored a flower bed at the station and worked closely with station staff to restore planters on the platforms. Soroptimists lobbied the Town Council asking for an approach to be made to South Eastern Rail company asking for an upgrading of the station . The station has now received a complete re painting for the town to enjoy. We now look forward to gardening in 2023
Isobel Groves, Programme Action Officer, SI Sevenoaks
The Vine Sensory Garden Sevenoaks Video
We were delighted that we were working with West Kent College on the Design Volunteer Project for many years. During that period Degree student Rachel made this wonderful stop motion video of the Vine Sensory Garden Sevenoaks showing the gardening work that we have undertaken in collaboration with Sevenoaks Town Council Open Spaces. Please find the link below
SI Sevenoaks English Conversation Project 2023
Cloud conversations bringing women and girls closer together.
Educate a woman and you educate a family
After an interesting and informative talk give; talk by Paramita Biswas on the creation of Girls University in Dasghara village in West Bengal providing higher education for girls in an area where none had previously been available; Sevenoaks SI took up the challenge of providing members to talk with the students on a weekly basis.
Her family has been active in the field of education in Dasghara village West Bengal for over 160 years. Her father donated family land enabling a boys’ school to be built followed by a kindergarten school. Paramita followed in her father’s footsteps by donating more land to establish a girls’ college.
She feels passionately about women and young girls having equal rights and equal access to education. Her generous donation of land led to the building of a college for young women aged 18-21 years which opened its doors in August 2017. Prior to this the village girls had no access to Higher Education. Colleges were distant and mixed. Their destiny was early marriage and motherhood and without economic independence they are very often abused. Now these women have a college on a green campus in their own village affiliated to the University of Burdwan. Their future is bright.
Paramita requested Soroptimist help in providing English conversation practice on Zoom. It is important for these women to speak English well in order to progress. Opportunities to practice English conversational skills are limited. Offering an hour’s conversation would be both enabling and beneficial. It was an inspiring talk giving hope for the future of women’s education and empowerment. Sevenoaks SI have taken up the challenge!
The college and the girls are very grateful and we enjoy meeting girls from such a different culture and learning about their lives.
Wendy Metcalf Club Member SI Sevenoaks
Loaves and Fishes – a local food bank
We provide continuing support for Loaves and Fishes with regular donations of non-perishable foodstuffs and sanitary products for families within the Sevenoaks area.