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President Susie’s May Newsletter

The busy month of April began with my planning meeting. The agenda items are becoming less as my year progresses – I can’t believe how the weeks are flying by!

On the 7th, I was delighted to attend SI Skipton in Craven’s 75th Charter Lunch at High Corn Mill in Skipton. A beautiful meal was followed by entertainment from a talented duo of teenage singers, one of whom is soon to be on stage in London’s West End.


On the 17th I was present at SI Harrogate and District’s AGM in the Crown Hotel. I was made most welcome and it was a privilege to hear about their activities and the Programme work that they have undertaken during their 90th year. I was able to present 6 Long Service Awards – Janet Hutton having given 45 years of service. Incoming President Christine Anderson has expanded on the 3As and 3Es by challenging Club members this year to the 3Fs- Focus, Friendship and Fun!


Saturday 20th April was the start of SIGBI President Ruth Healey’s weeklong visit to Yorkshire. In the afternoon, Lindsay Green hosted an excellent online Programme webinar which was attended by over 170 Soroptimists. I am sure that those of you unable to join in will receive a debrief from our Regional PA Chair, Linda Davis or from your own Club officers of they were also present. Three hours later I was able to see Lindsay and Ruth in person at Ilkley’s 80th Charter Dinner. A very enjoyable and well attended event, including members from their Friendship links from SI Norwich, Szeged (Hungary) and SI Beneden Mass (Holland) – a friendship link of 70 years! The meal was a celebration of SI Ilkley’s years of service. It was a fitting tribute to their late President Lynne Frisby.


Ruth and I had an early start on the Sunday morning when we were invited to speak on the BBC Radio Kat Cowan morning show (Radio Leeds, Sheffield and York). Although a little nervous I actually found the experience rewarding and Ruth was excellent outlining the structure and ethos of the Organisation whilst I explained about projects that have been undertaken by our Region. I would like to thank Hilary Putman for her tenacity and expertise in facilitating this media exposure – even if it was at 730am! I then met Ruth, Lindsay and Margaret Middlemas in York and we had an excellent tour of the city and walk along part of the wall conducted by a very knowledgeable Lindsay who used to live there. It was a shame that we were unable to look around The Minster as planned as it was holding a St George’s Day service. A tasty lunch was eaten and our mascot Rosie was happy to see ‘Old York’, having recently returned from her trip to the UN in ‘New York’!!


On Monday Hillary Putman kindly drove myself, Ruth, Lindsay (who attended events this week as SIGBI Director of Programme) to Malton to meet with Helen Hyams and other members of the Scarborough, Malton and District Club. We were joined by the Mayors of Malton and Norton, plus representatives from the causes they work with. Ruth Healey was pleased to present the Kingfisher Café with a toilet Twinning Certificate. Then it was on to Scarborough itself to meet with club presidents Angela Edwards and Elizabeth Ellis and other members of the club including member Richinda Taylor, who talked eloquently about EVA Women’s Aid which provides “free, confidential and non-judgmental specialist support services for women and children who have been affected by any form of domestic abuse and/or sexual violence at any time in their lives.” A delicious lunch allowed President Ruth to chat to club members and also to members of SI Beverley and District who were also present. President Ruth then presented recent member Catherine Best with her membership badge. In the afternoon we were driven to the Eastfield Estate to hear about the work of two charities which are or soon will be supported by local Soroptimists. The Westway Open Arms Community Centre and Food Bank is a social action centre meeting the needs and supporting the local community. Then it was on to Carers Plus who listen, support and work in partnership with unpaid family carers. Very thought provoking indeed.


On the Tuesday I did not attend the annual STEM Event organised by SI Leeds at Alder Tree Primary School, but I know that Ruth and Lindsay were enthusing about their early morning’s flying visit. After picking up a waif and stray enroute, it was on to Tapton Hall for lunch with members of SI Sheffield and SI Hallamshire and to hear about local causes that they support. Chatting to the founder and the chair of trustees of the Mum’s in Need Charity, we were reminded that survivors of domestic abuse may suffer abuse that persists after their relationship has ended. After another delicious lunch (there is a theme developing!) we accompanied members of SI Hallamshire to visit the charity Baby Basics in the city centre. The support and work that they give to this cause, has been previously been Highly Commended in our Regional Programme Awards. It is a volunteer- led project which aims to support new mothers and families who are struggling with the financial and logistical burden of looking after a new baby. A second thought provoking day of visits drew to a close very quickly and so an early night prepared us for a busy Wednesday.


The day began with a visit to The Spirit of Christmas in Selby where we met one of the trustees Kevin Davy. This amazing charity provides presents for children who are in need at Christmas. Educational toys and books are amongst the gifts received. They also organise parties for the children where they can meet Santa. The Banana Box project enables the charity to continue to distribute toys at other times of the year. Recently they have started a social session for neurodiverse children who were identified as a group in need of support. This charity relies on volunteers to run their large events and SI Selby have given support here for several years. President Ruth and I had a welcome cup of coffee at the Wednesday Wellbeing Cafe at Portholme Church, hosted by Dementia Forward and the Primary Care Network. The Speaker Fiona Hill outlined mechanisms how to retain cognitive function into old age. Again, Soroptimists were among volunteers who enabled the drop in cafe to take place.


The lunch eaten in Selby Garden Centre was fabulous and we were joined by members from the Selby Club and SIYAMS. The afternoon SIYAMS meeting was well attended and we listened intently to the speaker Gill Kirkman, Assistant Professor in social work at Bradford University. She spoke about the level of abuse young females can receive in relationships, due to the perception by males that coercion, physical, emotional and sexual abuse are the norm and are acceptable behaviours. Access to age- inappropriate material and unacceptable social expectations has driven this deterioration in behaviour. She then showed us an online tool ‘Danielle’, created by a research project developed over several years which takes the form of an interactive game. Aimed at the mid to late teens, the students can choose the outcome of various scenarios and gradually learn by interactive game play what relationship behaviours are destructive and which are acceptable. Where this has been used in schools, far more healthy relationships have been forged. It was a very thought -provoking session. The meeting continued with a discussion of the latest developments in our safe spaces survey. Ruth, Lindsay Green and I were then whisked to the Selby Times for an interview with journalist Abby Backhouse and photos. Ruth outlined the wider impact of work accomplished by SiGBI and SI and the importance of our NGO status at the UN. We are unique in that we are Club led and service is driven from the base upwards. Lindsay spoke about our Programme work and advocacy. After a couple of hours rest it was off to SI Selby’s AGM. There was a good attendance from the club and there were also a number of guests. Kevin Davy from the Spirit of Christmas, and representatives from girl guiding and the St John’s ambulance were all presented with cheques. Also present were Ian Wilson from and other guests from the Parish Council and other causes. It was moving to hear about the relief work in Ukraine and the role that Soroptimists have played.


On the Thursday morning, President Ruth and I attended an Orange café in Ravensthorpe which had been arranged in partnership with Ravensthorpe Community Centre. SI Dewsbury and District have recently forged links with the local community and several ladies on the Cohesion Team had joined us for the March on International Women’s Day. The event was amazing – to quote a participant “it was an Orange café on steroids!” There were over 60 people there – members of SI Dewsbury, Wakefield and their Districts plus Garforth Elmett. It was lovely to meet members of the community- Aysha (project officer), Nahid (community education officer), Shakran the welcoming receptionist, Rubina from the cohesion team and Mr Abdul Aslam who had been instrumental in developing the centre for the local community. We were treated to a fabulous Indian buffet plus delicious cakes made by Soroptimists. It was one of the friendliest, most integrated events I have ever attended and we all look forward to working together again.


We were then whisked off to Dewsbury Country Park to meet up with park ranger Drew. He had selected a strong sapling for us- Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Chubby’ – a redwood as a nod to the first project undertaken by Soroptimists to save the giant redwoods in America. There are some great photos of President Ruth with her spade! In the evening Ruth and I attended my Club, Wakefield and District’s AGM. I was honoured to give our new President Julie Clark her chain of office. It was a friendly, interesting and enjoyable evening. The buffet spread was a beautiful sight!


On Friday Ruth and Lindsay travelled to the visit Bingley Community Kitchen. I joined her for lunch afterwards at Salts Mill in Saltare. It was lovely to chat with members of SI Bingley and Bradford. Susan Mendoza, Ruth and Lindsay then travelled to the Bradford Community Radio studio for another successful interview.


The final full day of Ruth’s Yorkshire Odyssey was facilitated by SI Keighley who hosted her and Lindsay to a relaxing lunch and they had an interesting time discussing their programme work. The Bingley Dinner on Saturday evening was a delightful event. Many congratulations to the Club on the anniversary of their 75th Charter. The room was full of fellowship and it was a fitting end to a wonderful week.


I am looking forward to welcoming New Club Presidents to lunch on 11th May, hosted by members of SI Wakefield and District. Please don’t forget the date of my Food and Drink Experience Charity Event on 1st August.


I hope that the whole Region feels justifiably proud of the warm and generous welcome that we gave to our Federation President. She hopes to use the visit as a template for her to be hosted in other regions.


In Friendship


President Susie