Seventy Soroptimists from South Lancashire attended the 83rd Federation Conference of Soroptimist International, Great Britain & Ireland. Soroptimist conferences are a heady mix of concentration, information, conversation and celebration – with retail therapy, friendship and fun adding to the experience. ‘Step Up, Lead the Way’ in Cardiff 2017 was no exception. At the change of insignia event, Margaret Molyneux (SI Leigh & District) stepped down after a packed and positive year as South Lancashire’s Regional President. “It has been a pleasure, an honour and a privilege to serve the Region”, she said. Taking over the reins (and the chain) is Margaret Davies (SI Southport). Her theme for the year – ‘Reach Out’.
South Lancashire’s Soroptimists turned out in force for the Region’s new members and awards lunch. The event is an ideal opportunity for ‘newbies’ to strike up acquaintances in other clubs, and to listen to an address by a key member of the organisation. Held every two years, the event also attracts many longstanding Soroptimists. Peace, equality, justice – these are the basics of society, according to Barbara Dixon, Programme Director for Soroptimist International, GB and Ireland (SIGBI). As the keynote speaker, Barbara pulled urged club members to design projects that directly support communities, local and global. Projects must echo the principles of Soroptimist International (SI) – education, empowerment and enablement of women and girls. Barbara also reiterated the absolute necessity of reporting club projects to SIGBI and thence to SI. Our representatives at the United Nations call on the data submitted – projects are evidence
Guest speaker at SI South Lancashire’s autumn Council meeting was Di Hill, a Director without Portfolio for Soroptimist International, Great Britain & Ireland (SIGBI). Di outlined SIGBI’s ‘Vision 2021’ and the accompanying growth plan leading up to the organisation’s centenary. Long-term, the goal of Soroptimist International is ‘to be the leading organisation for today’s women’. Strong marketing and communications, focussed far-reaching project work, effective external partnership working, and efficient internal management, are the means by which SIGBI hopes to achieve its goal. Active members – existing and potential – are central to all the changes in prospect. Di’s presentation provoked a number of questions and contributions – a healthy response to a comprehensive overview. At the morning’s Programme Action (PA) meeting, three clubs reported on recent projects: SI Crosby (STEM events for local girls), SI Stockport (refurbished police video unit interview room) and SI Wigan
Once again Soroptimists in the Leigh & District Club concluded a successful bowls season by ‘doing the double’. High-scoring members from four clubs competed for the singles trophy on finals day – Widnes, Liverpool, Leigh & District, and Crosby. In the 3-way play-off last year’s winner Gail Farrer (SI Leigh & District) faced Sandy Taylor and Yvonne Atkinson (both SI Crosby). It was nip-and-tuck throughout the game – to the delight of all the spectators. There were 37 ends before Gail was able to snap up two points for a grandstand finish. The Region’s bowls trophy is awarded to the team that, over the season, gains the most points against Soroptimist clubs in the Region. The regional president usually presents it. On finals day, however, there was the conundrum: the regional president was the winning captain! Pat Woodward (President SI Leigh & District) was therefore
South Lancashire Region held a Celebration of Soroptimist Service to recognise the diversity, talents and friendships amongst all members. The event – held in Leigh at an Anglican church – had a multi-faith focus. Three Soroptimist ministers from different churches led the service, and members from the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu faiths gave poignant readings. Almost all the clubs in the Region had at least one member in a participatory role. Diane Mackley (SI Southport) sang Cherubino’s aria ‘Voi Che Sapete’ from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro; and Eunice Woof (SI Bootle) led a small Soroptimist vocal group to sing the aptly-titled ‘I am a small part of the world’. A collection was taken, part of which will be donated to the Federation’s Meru Women’s Garden Project. Afternoon tea was served by members of SI Leigh & District at the end of the service.
“Our mission is to inspire and empower girls …” Does that sound familiar? That is the mission of The Girls’ Network, a very young UK charity. As Soroptimists we, too, have similar aspirations. Therefore, the guest speaker at the recent Regional Programme Action Meeting, Hayley Misell (Network Manager – Manchester), had a keen-eared audience. The Network addresses the needs of girls who just ‘coast’ along. For so many in the least-advantaged communities there is a gap between girls’ dreams and their expectations. Many of them do not have the self-belief necessary to make the best use of their capabilities. For one year girls are each linked with a mentor, a professional career woman who acts as a positive female role model. This ongoing relationship helps the girls develop in confidence. It opens their eyes to the possibilities – and opportunities – available to them. They
Soroptimist Phyllis Bayley, a building surveyor, has won the National Trust (Northern Region) Award for her garden design at Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. As project lead for the upper gardens and greenhouse at the mill, she worked in partnership with the head gardener (Sarah Witts) on the ‘Special Places’ project. Phyllis is a member of SI Leigh and District. Several fellow members of the club are volunteers at Quarry Bank transcribing personal papers from the Greg family, who once owned the mill.
Stockport and District Soroptimists have raised funds to refurbish two video interview rooms and waiting rooms for Greater Manchester Police. The facilities (at the Hazel Grove Unit) are for adults and children – victims and witnesses, as well as those accompanying them. For the interview rooms the Soroptimists provided pictures, cushions, small tables and lamps. The aim is to make the rooms user-friendly – to offer a calm and comfortable environment for the victims of crime. Many are feeling especially vulnerable; many have suffered serious assault or domestic violence. The waiting rooms are now fitted out with pictures, cushions and lamps; plus, TV-DVDs and a selection of films suitable for children. Books, toys, games, colouring books and pencils have been added for children, along with magazines and paperbacks for adults. In addition, the Soroptimists have provided crockery and basic supplies. They will replenish the tea,
Any Soroptimist getting married is a cause for celebration in her club; but when it’s your Immediate Past President (IPP), it’s something else again! Eleanor Reakes (President of SI Stockport and District) therefore decided to organise a ‘surprise’ bridal shower for IPP Ingrid Whiteman to celebrate her forthcoming wedding. Regional President Margaret was invited as the club’s special guest. To say that Ingrid was speechless to be faced by a group of club members wearing ‘wedding hats’ is an understatement. She thought she was going for coffee with a friend! A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all.
Soroptimists from South Lancashire attended the conference organised by our neighbouring region, North West England & the Isle of Man. “Change Me for We” enabled delegates to consider the strength of collective effort, of co-operation and of shared goals. Speakers included: Ann Hodgson, Federation President, Soroptimist International (Great Britain & Ireland) who challenged delegates to promote active involvement – of club members and of the wider community – in all Soroptimist projects. Emily Rose Yates, adventurous wheelchair user, Paralympic gamesmaker and outspoken advocate for access-for-all. Mike Hagen of ‘Classrooms on the Clouds’, a charity supporting education in remote areas of Nepal. Sharon Smith, a police officer with responsibility for adult safeguarding and the investigation of so-called ‘honour-based violence’. Victoria Whitaker of ‘War Child UK’, working on child protection and the reintegration of former child fighters and forced ‘wives’. Sarah Brook, from the Sparkle Foundation, currently supporting vulnerable people in ten