In early October, SI Southport traditionally celebrates Friendship Night, where we meet together to celebrate our friendship links with the lighting of candles and an evening of fun and good food. Of course, 2020 was different.
This year our ‘Friendship night of SI Southport’ was held virtually. President Rosemary welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced all our members and guests – which this year included representatives from ALL of our friendship links. We were also delighted to be joined by SIGBI Friendship Link Co-ordinator, Bhaswati Biswas.
The current Covid-19 situation has affected every corner of the world, but nevertheless, Soroptimist clubs were actively supporting, helping and driving projects to ease the trauma. Each of our guests gave a summary of their clubs and their projects and following each presentation, the friendship link correspondent lit a candle WITH our link clubs, many of whom lit their own candles alongside.
Despite the different sizes, compositions, locations and ages of the clubs represented, the projects covered showed some common themes – promotion of education for women and girls, supporting food supply and food banks due to the impact of Covid-19, activities for victims of domestic abuse – Soroptimists working together to support and assist with global issues.
SI Lisburn (Northern Ireland):
Irene Orr and Barbara Carlisle held some good speaker meetings and fund-raising events, despite lockdown.
– Speakers such as Carol Walker, who spoke about careers in forestry and low-carbon farming
– Members had participated in the ‘One World’ Festival
– A Zoom curry night with Philip Holmes from Chori Chora, which raised £1800.
SI Dhanmondi (Bangladesh), our newest link
Farzana Mahmud showed a presentation and spoke about her club and her city. Dhanmondi has a small club of 20 members, mostly young professional women. Their projects focussed on providing and distributed hampers for the unemployed and disabled, looking after older people and supporting the literacy centre and International Education Day.
SI Caserta (Italy)
We were joined by President Elect Anna Riccardi, correspondent Stella Bianca Adinolfi and Past President of SI Europe Maria Elisabetta de Franciscis. Elisabetta reported that the club have been very busy during the lockdown, despite being unable to meet in person. Members have supported a number of activities:
– a second sanctuary room for women victims of violence
– activities with the kindergartens, to give more freedom to women who need to work
– producing masks for the local community
– raising funds to purchase food vouchers for groceries for families in distress
– regular Facebook meetings with local town representatives and young entrepreneurs to discuss various key issues
SI Gdansk (Poland)
Maria Banaszak reported that SI Gdansk, founded 24 years ago, now has 31 members and is one of the larger clubs in the area. They have a number of friendship links and also have some joint projects, for example, with their link in Japan, they are planting trees on the university campus. Maria described some of their projects during the Covid lockdown, some of which have been assisted by some funding from SI Europe:
– they are providing psychological support to women whose children have Type 1 Diabetes
– a focus on the victims of domestic abuse, which has increased during the Covid pandemic
– scholarships awarded to young women to promote talent in literature, art or music
– projects to assist young people of 18/19 who are leaving orphanages
– arranging playrooms for children who have spent their early years with their mothers in prison
– Fund raising by arranging concerts
SI Horsens (Denmark)
Sonya Elgaard reported that the Horsens club was in lockdown from March to June and re-opened on June 10 with an outdoor summer meeting. The club has 36 members, including 2 new members – and luckily no-one has been personally contracted Covid-19.
Their current projects include:
– stopping violence against women and girls (which is a Soroptimist Nordic project)
– enabling education for single mothers, so they can continue to build their careers
Horsens club was founded in 1997 so they are looking forward to their quarter-century celebrations in 2022.
SI Windermere and District (England)
This is a small club and members were able to meet in the garden when lockdown was lifted. Liz Haworth reported on their projects, including:
– Sponsorship of a schoolgirl, with sufficient funds being raised through a Strawberry Tea to enable a further year of education.
– Ambleside Knitters, who are busy knitting squares for blankets
– Christmas boxes for pensioners – 18-20 boxes have been packed so far
– Assisting at harvest festivals for the local churches
Windermere and the Lake District in general have been very quiet in recent months but visitors returned in huge numbers towards the end of the summer – so the temptation of the locals is still to stay at home!
SIGBI Friendship Link Co-ordinator Bhaswati Biswas then presented on the purpose of friendship links, with a few ideas such as joint projects, sharing good practice, enabling cross-culture as well as, of course, meeting socially. Friendship links develop in many different ways – personal contact, professional contact, meeting at Conferences and so on – based on a desire to collaborate and work with other clubs.
The Chair of our International Committee, Heather Shulver, who organised the evening, concluded the proceedings with a presentation on ‘Southport, its club and the town’. SI Southport was founded in 1932, so we are coming up to our 90th anniversary in 2022.
Finally, Bhaswati Biswas lit a candle for SIGBI and President Rosemary Moore lit a candle for Soroptimist International in the presence of our friends from SI Europe, as well as SI Great Britain and Ireland.
It was such a joy to spend a wonderful evening in the presence of our friends from all over the world, to share their ideas and projects and to enjoy some international interaction. Such a joy to be a Soroptimist!