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Past Presidents


A Celebration of 80 Years of Service

I am honoured to be president of Sunderland Club for our 80th Anniversary Year.

I would like to thank President Marge Wilkinson for an extremely interesting and enjoyable year.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to have a year of Celebration linked to Service and Friendship.

Women’s lives have changed dramatically in the past 80 years.  I would like this to be a year to both remember past times and also look forward to the future, with Soroptimists continuing to make a difference to the lives of women and girls.

Our Sunderland Club was chartered in 1938, the year before the outbreak of World War II.  The lives of women changed massively in the war years; men went to war and women had to do the jobs of their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

Through a Club Member reading a book written by local author Nancy Revell, we learned about women in Sunderland working in the shipyards, replacing men who were serving in the Armed Forces. These brave women ensured ships could still be built in what used to be the largest shipbuilding town in the world.

We now have Keel Square in Sunderland, dedicated to ships that were built and the people involved.  To celebrate our 80th anniversary I would like us to have a lasting memory to honour these women, prominently sited in Keel Square.

Women have come a long way since 1938; their lives have changed dramatically.  We now work in all professions/businesses; during the latter part of our 80 years, we have even had two women serve as Prime Minister.

I believe we have certainly achieved our aims – Educate, Empower, Enable – and I look forward to the future for Soroptimists – to continue to raise with the support of Nancy Revell, and Sunderland City Council, it is planned that, in the extension to Keel Square, we will have a plaque erected in a prominent position, dedicated to the Women Shipyard Workers.

We have had great support from Nancy Revell, who is to be Guest Speaker at our 80th Anniversary Lunch.

Charity/Fund Raising, 2018-19

The main charity to receive support from our fundraising this year will be the Northumbria Blood Bikes; these are volunteer motorcyclists who transport blood, plasma or any other essential items to wherever they are needed in the North East. They link with the Air Ambulance Service.

We will also support new projects throughout the year which members may decide to put forward.



Past President Marge Wilkinson’s message 2017-18


I am delighted to be your President for the coming year.  My theme is Service, Fun and Friendship   I value our service work with the knowledge that we can make a difference to those we help.

I would like to continue supporting : Streetcare : The Youth Parliament: Wearside Women in Need:  Meru Garden Project: Comfort Bags for Trafficked Girls and Mock Interviews with Students at Gateshead College,  and if there is still a need for Twiddle Muffs I’m sure everyone will be happy to continue.

I would also like to support an overseas charity, Manzini Youth Project in Swaziland, bringing education and work skills to young people. A representative from Manzini will come and speak to us in October

Programme Action is not about one person doing most of the work; it is something the whole club can get involved in. Everyone can play a part no matter how small.  If we each do a little, together we can achieve a lot.

Although it is good to raise money to support charities, for me it is more important for Club friendship to stay strong.  Apart from our CAMEO coffee mornings, I am planning a summer outing in July to Bradley Gardens in Wylam, here we can walk through the restored 18th century walled garden, browse through the shop, and visit the café.

In November, many members and friends are going on our trip to Chatsworth.

As Soroptimists we care for others through our Programme Action work but we must not forget to care for each other, FRIENDSHIP is very important.

As we move forward into our Clubs 79th year, let us meet the challenges through SERVICE and FRIENDSHIP.

President Marge Wilkinson


President Cheryl wished to support Sunderland Branch of Action for Dementia, at the AGM on 12 April Ernie Thompson came to the meeting to be presented with a cheque for £1800 for the above and also he accepted a supply of ‘Twiddle Muffs’ which have been knitted and prepared by Sunderland Members and their friends and family. The ‘Twiddle Muffs’ help people suffering from Dementia to relax and the muffs provide a place for them to put their hands and play with the objects which have been added to the outside and inside of the muffs.  Ernie was delighted with our support.

The ‘Twiddle Muffs’ are made and prepared at groups of Sunderland Members at their ‘Knit and Natter’ meetings.

President Cheryl`s final update of SI Sunderland`s activities before 12 April AGM (Jan 2017 to 12 April)
11 Jan `17 Post Christmas Auction and Dinner Evening
We managed to raise £166.00 at our traditional annual Post Christmas Auction when we bring along unwanted Christmas gifts that are auctioned off at incredibly reasonable prices…all proceeds go to the President`s charities.
This occasion was also used to reveal our new SI Sunderland Banner, kindly donated by Kath Tuddenham. Once again, we would like to acknowledge and thank brothers Steven and Daniel Duncan, who are members of the Sunderland Model Engineering Club for creating our impressive banner from a rough template/design that we gave them. We use this banner for events and dinner evenings, when we have with speakers. The banner enables us to showcase who we are and what we do.

8 Feb Dinner evening: Professor Michael Norton
Professor Michael Norton, a community cardiologist based in Sunderland was indeed very interesting company during the meal before he delivered his talk. Being an Irishman, I do believe he has the “gift of the gab” for telling a good tale.
His achievements are extremely impressive. He is Head of Department at the Falls and Syncope Service in Newcastle`s R.V.I. and Visiting Professor of Community Cardiology at the University of Sunderland. His interests range from working with other specialities such as respiratory medicine, diabetes, urology, psychiatry and haematology.
He seems to be passionate about out of hospital cardiac arrest…thus his interest in defibrillators (PAD) to be available in as many public places as possible so that anyone can use them in an emergency. The demonstration he gave was convincing, in that we realised that we shouldn`t be afraid of using a PAD if someone has a cardiac arrest.
He urged us to find venues that might buy an external PAD and is prepared to assist in financing these devices. You can find out more on and he gave us his contact details:
1 March Special Business meeting held at the Marriott Hotel.
Our two speakers were Sunderland Councillor Graeme Miller, responsible for Health, Housing and Adult Services and Alan Caddick who is Head of Housing Support and Community Living in Sunderland.
We had a good turn out with 20 ladies and 1 gentleman from a range of backgrounds: SI Sunderland, Impact Family Services, Operation Compass and ladies from the Hendon Peer Support Group all of which were interested to hear what our two Sunderland City Council speakers had to say and explain regarding the continued domestic violence service for the city, despite constraints on finances due to further cuts to the budget.
The council has had very negative coverage and demonstrations recently due to misguided rumours and perceptions so it was very interesting to learn the facts and truth about the past history of the financial budget cuts as far back as 2010!
It was explained that the council is now planning a new model to provide a service for victims of domestic. This will be more collaborative and streamlined “in a more joined up way” and will work together with six other local authorities regarding contract issues. There will be a pulling together of “funding streams” that will have a focus on preventative strategies. It was explained how they plan to work with the domestic abuse perpetrators and enable women and children in refuges to move forward. They realise that many abuse victims have complex needs so there is a need to be far more collaborative with shared outcomes, vision and approaches.
It was mentioned that the council is working on an enabling model called “Chains That Last” led by Woman`s Aid (I would like to research this further). It was encouraging to hear that Sunderland City Council is one of three national pilot models who are looking at the wider needs of survivors to enable these women and children to build up their self-confidence and to engage with trusted professionals, community workers, social workers and mental health organisation such as SIPS, CAHMS etc.
The audience engaged with many questions and opinions which made it a very interactive meeting. It was agreed that there is an urgent need to engage young children in Junior School to participate in healthy relationship awareness as a preventative strategy to domestic abuse. It was also felt that teachers in secondary school need to be better equipped and trained to deliver Sex and Relationship lessons.
I was also very touched to witness Shirley Miller, a survivor of domestic abuse and a member of the Hendon Peer Support Group chatting to the two speakers. She handed over one of their journals to the two speakers and explained the contents, pointing out useful contacts at the back of the journal and swapping contact numbers. I think that this gesture demonstrates a willingness to move forward in a positive, collaborative way which in my mind made the evening a success.

8 March Dinner Evening: Speaker Mrs Alison Collins, manager for the Young Mums Unit, based at Hendon Health Centre and part the of Bump2Birth Young Parent`s Project.
We learnt that the YM`s Unit caters for pregnant girls in Sunderland under school leaving age who cannot remain in school. Referrals come mainly from School Attendance officers, also Head teachers, Heads of Year, the Youth Offending Service, doctors, midwives and parents.
The arrangement of a dual placement with school works particularly well with girls who are following a heavy examination timetable and at the same time also benefit from the emotional and practical support.
The YM`s receive accreditation in various subject areas combining core academic skills and practical support with childcare. This also includes sessions with health professionals, dental nurses etc.
These girls are also supported into Post 16 Pathways, moving onto various colleges and Training Providers with advice about childcare facilities.
Alison Collins teaches GCSE Maths and manages the Unit with Kelly McKenzie, a Higher Level teacher Assistant. These two ladies deserve high praise for often going way beyond their job descriptions in order to give their utmost support to these YM`s.
16 March 2017: Programme Action: Mock Interviews at Gateshead College:
For a second year, we have continued to our partnership with the Project Choice Programme, funded by NHS and based at Gateshead College. This programme supports young people with learning disabilities and various forms of autism to equip them with social and work based skills needed to compete in the job market. These students are supported in work experience placements to understand the pathway to employment.
Rosemary Jenkinson, Kath Tuddenham and Cheryl Finlay are involved with this PA service whereby we get to know the students, their needs and personalities to enable us to do a series of mock interviews (Autumn, Spring and Summer) to build up their self-confidence and interview skills.

22 March: Business Meeting:
A presentation was given by Tom and Rachel who represented the Sunderland Youth Parliament. They gave us an outstanding presentation about all their service to the Sunderland youth community.
They make an amazing and outstanding contribution in giving a voice to be heard by young people in the community and in so doing making a difference.
We first engaged with the Sunderland Youth Parliament in 2015 when we debated the topics Politics in School, Domestic Violence, Sex and Relationship Education in Schools and trafficking
Their action was to take relationship bookmarks, posters and leaflets into schools on healthy relationships and trafficking. They agreed to Anti Trafficking stickers in taxis. Arising from this, taxis drivers were trained in how to deal with suspicious situations in taxis.
This year SYP raised awareness on Mental Health problems in young people and also the stigma around it. What a challenge to take on.
Their action plan that they put in place has been detailed, intensive and thorough. It has involved conferring with professionals, and working on developing a Wellbeing Charter Mark for schools so children, parents and professionals can get support and help in the early stages. SYP members have received training from Washington Mind to promote positive mental health and act as peer group mentors in their schools and colleges. The training will help the young people with skills and knowledge to help those with suicidal thoughts.
Sunderland Young Inspectors is a programme that trains young people aged 13 -19(+25) to inspect the services they use. Now a health model has been added to their programme and some SYP members are fully trained as mental health inspectors and can inspect mental health providers.
They have had representation on Head Teachers’ Conference and met with MP’s to discuss young people’s issues
Congratulations Pat Howe, for your dedicated partnership with the SYP and for all your hard work, on behalf of SI Sunderland to nominate SYP for the Young Achievers Award 2017.
We are not surprised that the Sunderland Youth Parliament has won The Young Achievers’ Award 2017 for the category “Service to the Community”. They are very deserving to be recognised for all their outstanding achievements.

They are truly inspirational!
It has been an honour to be your president for the past year. I hope we can continue to build upon the successful P.A. programmes from this year to the next. Thank you to all you amazing SI Sunderland ladies for all your hard work, support, commitment and working as a team.
President Cheryl Finlay


SI Sunderland President 2015 – 2016 – Patricia Howe

A Message from President Pat

A World Fit for Children

 I am very proud and honoured to be President of Soroptimist International of Sunderland.

We are one club in an organisation which has 80,000 members in 130 countries and territories. Is it not wonderful that in this massive network we all strive to improve the lives and status of women and girls?  In turn helping to improve lives for men and boys. Our Programme Action, which is the work we do in the community to make a difference, is the heart of the organisation. To do this we are engaged in campaigning, lobbying volunteering and training locally and internationally. Our outstanding work as an organisation has given us special status with the United Nations. Our representatives report to the UN our findings on issues at grass roots to influence discussions and decision making.

As we move forward this year it is my wish, to raise awareness locally on two main aspects of Modern Day Slavery, namely Trafficking and Domestic Violence with focus on the effect it has on children. This year we hope to help a women’s Domestic Violence Drop in Group publish their journal of experiences from being a victim of domestic abuse to becoming a survivor .The aim being to help other women in similar situations.

To safeguard young people the public need to know the danger signs and work with the professionals to ensure our young people are living in a safe, secure environment.

In addition, we hope we can give a voice to young people to hear and discuss issues they feel strongly about in the world today.  To educate, empower and enable young people is important so they can lead to make a difference.

A quote for the year “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.”  Kofi Annan

Soroptimists have fun and particularly important are the friendships formed. We have good speakers on a range of topics, visits to local restaurants, theatres, trips, auctions, house parties and table top sales. We work best when we are enjoying ourselves in a comfortable relaxed atmosphere.

Enjoy the year

President Pat Howe


President’s update

What a wonderful six months we have had.

The Journal

We have worked with the women from a Domestic Violence Group Drop in Group to help them compile and publish a journal of their experiences, from being victims of abuse to becoming survivors. Their hopes are it will help other women to realise there is a way out of an abusive relationship. The highlight was when the journal was launched and some of the ladies spoke out.

The journal gained high acclaim and has travelled far and wide to spread its message.

A Voice to be Heard

Another highlight has been our debates with The Sunderland Youth Parliament… What an outstanding group of young people and such a credit to the young people of our city. They use their voices to be heard and influence decision making. We have debated with them domestic violence, politics in school, sex and relationship education in schools and trafficking

From an action plan the young people chose to help raise awareness of trafficking and domestic violence distributing bookmarks to recognize an abusive relationship trafficking posters and leaflets to warn young people that trafficking does occur in the UK.


PRESIDENT’S REPORT (Kathleen Tuddenham) 2014 – 2015

My year as President of S. I. Sunderland has overseen a number of changes. Some I did not envisage nor did I have included in my programme.

Our first change was locating to a new venue here at the Marriott Hotel, where I am sure you will all agree we have been well served with very enjoyable food, efficient service in very pleasant surroundings, and the Charter Lunch was not to be missed.

“Looking Forward in a Changing World” has been my theme for the year and my guest speakers have mostly reflected change either through circumstances which have occurred in their lifetime or maybe through influence and work that have changed and enhanced the lives of other people.

The charity I chose to support during my year of office was influenced by family experience of the medical attention received from The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I was fortunate to have Professor Ruth Plummer attend the first supper evening which launched my intention to give support to the foundation and last but not least I was able to welcome Lady Elsie Robson to the last supper evening to receive a cheque for £3236 a total amount raised through fund raising events and donations throughout the year. Our very own Wear Surma Clinic has also been recognized with a donation of £150.

So much for fund raising, now to focus on Programme Action projects which as you know is at the heart of what Soroptimism is all about.

A changing world has brought about the need for food banks and our members have very kindly contributed, on a regular basis, a wide variety of tinned foods etc. to the food bank based at the Bethany Church in Sunderland. For Christmas our members again came forward with great enthusiasm and generosity and put together seven hampers for the food bank.

I had the desire that we should continue our service with Young Carers in Sunderland. This work was recognized by our club receiving second place award from the Soroptimist International Northern England Best Practice Programme Action Award 2014 for our work with young carers, in particular guidance given to a young carer on interviewing techniques – who I might say was successful in achieving employment.

We focussed on Modern Day Slavery Bill and this was influenced further by the attendance of Chief Inspector Sean McKenna at one of our meetings who, together with Community Engagement Officers Martha and Rebecca, informed us of the work undertaken by police officers in relation to Operation Sanctuary. The spin-offs from this visit introduced us to Rahmat, a Nigerian Lady who had suffered female genital mutilation.  Some of us were also introduced to a support centre for women who had suffered or had come out of domestic violent relationships. These projects are still on-going. Our members continue to support Cancer Research and Street Care.

In November I joined a number of members to Conference in Harrogate. Again a very worthwhile experience, with very inspiring, interesting speakers who centred their talks around the Conference theme “Women Leading Change Together”.

I have attended Charter Lunches at Morpeth, Durham and Newcastle; a very interesting Regional Council Meeting held in May at the International Centre for Life, Newcastle – the theme was “Temptation” and focussed on tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse and internet safety.

Another change, we have joined with or invited our Sister Soroptimists from South Shields to supper evenings and afternoon teas.

We all enjoyed our usual carol singing at Falstone Manor Care Home, where residents and staff sang along with us – and we are getting better –  and this was concluded with a very welcome glass of sherry followed by a retreat to Martino’s for coffee and a natter. Our Christmas meal together with the pantomime performance was not to be missed.  Thank you to Carol and all those who took part, and for the whole event superbly organised by President Elect Pat Howe.

Not in my programme was the Tin of Truth, but I led the club through this exercise which has brought about changes to the future structure and format of meetings at S. I. Sunderland.

The year has had its ups and downs as they say.  A disappointment was when three members resigned their membership just before Christmas. However, it has been a joy and I have had much delight in welcoming two new members to our club; namely Jacquie and Rosemary. An equally enjoyable event was my visit to the home of Gladys Maddison who was celebrating her 90th birthday where we sat and reminisced about days gone by. What an interesting and wise lady to listen to and converse with.

Finally, I would like to thank all members, especially the Executive Committee for the help and support given to me during the past year and I look forward to giving the next President my full support and assistance during her year of office.

I hope you have all enjoyed the 2014/2015 programme. It has been a roller coaster year-not an easy year- but to me it has been a year of learning from experienced members, who have lifted me up when at times I felt so let down.  But most of all I have a lot of happy memories to cherish and remember. I hope you all have too.

Kath Tuddenham

April 2015