SI South Lancashire’s 2018 conference was a great success. Over 130 Soroptimists from the Region and beyond enjoyed a packed programme of informative speakers and thoughtful debate. Regional President Margaret’s theme, ‘Reach Out’, encompassed local and international topics, personal well-being and institutional challenges.
Hannah Flint (Stop the Traffik) gave a comprehensive update on trafficking and exploitation. An estimated 13,000 modern slavery victims are in the UK: it is ongoing and happening on our doorstep. (The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, had its first reading in the House of Commons just before the regional conference.) Soroptimists, she feels, should focus on raising awareness in the community, as well as making available information about helplines and support.
Patricia Gatherum, Federation Ambassador for the Meru Garden Project, spoke entertainingly about her recent visit to the project in Kenya. Underlying her presentation was the positive impact that Soroptimists’ funding is making on the lives of the local women.
Mike Crowther, of Empowerment, explained the work of his Blackpool-based charity. It offers a range of support services for people affected by domestic abuse, health and social care problems, and dementia. ‘The Den’, in particular, offers support for children who have witnessed (by seeing or hearing) domestic abuse in their family.
Ben Mott – well known to many Soroptimists in the region – gave an animated, thought-provoking session on dementia awareness. Believing the need to find ‘joy’ in dementia, Ben stressed that carers – including nurses such as himself – need to help people to be themselves, not what is convenient for the carer. There are over 100 different dementias: if the condition was called ‘cognitive cancer’, would funding and research be more forthcoming?
Concluding the Programme, Sue Williams (Federation President Elect) spoke about her visit to Nepal, and the work being carried out by the members of SI Kathmandu. In addition, she flagged up her ongoing interest in mental health support, and the importance of looking after ourselves as well as others.
Speaking of which – the conference day ended with an impromptu dance-about to the tune (appropriately) ‘Reach Out’!