What I love about Soroptimists is that we aren’t afraid to tackle huge issues in a measured, long term and holistic way. We are women with a conscience that acknowledge, and are grateful for, our education, our place in our society and the freedoms we have and would just like to have a small part in helping others who may not. Simple really. “From little acorns” and “ripples on a pond” come to mind – you get the idea.
We are here to promote the 3Es for women and girls – Educate, Empower and Enable – but that we do this with care in our hearts and a smile on our faces is one of the differences. We are not “Do Gooders” as the term is usually used, but we definitely do good. We can, and do, make a difference to issues that affect women and girls locally, nationally and internationally – who else has representation at the United Nations? The UN values our input and the relatively smaller efforts that we accomplish are every bit as important.
We continue to find new ways of working in the community by way of service not just fundraising and we will continue to help with collecting items such as bras and the food bank.
My motto for this year is “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I came upon it 2 years ago by accident. It has become one of my life mottos and it simply says what I want my year to be. I cannot stand here and say I thought it up but it came from an unlikely source – a certain B rated movie star that went on to be President of the United States of America.
The charities I have chosen are all very close to my heart and are for personal reasons. I have chosen Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid once again as within my own extended family we have witnessed the terror & horror of domestic violence.
Breast cancer has touched most of us, my mother died from breast cancer at the age of 44, just before my 13th birthday. There were no agencies to help her or the family back then. Since then there have been other family members, close friends, work colleagues and the list goes on. Solihull Breast Friends is a local charity that gives emotional and practical support to patients during a difficult time. I know several ladies who have benefitted by Breast Friends’ help and support and there are probably others here who have heard or know of their good works. A small local charity, but one that needs constant support.
My third charity is Vision Aid Overseas. At the age of 3 I had corrective eye surgery for a very bad squint and extreme long sightedness. Then in my late 30s I developed a cataract in one eye only. There was no question that an operation would take place eventually, which it did when I was 42. We are fortunate to have the NHS, yet in other countries children and adults live without the healthcare we have. If you give a person sight you give them independence, education, healthcare – the list is endless. Eyes are so very precious.
I hope I have chosen a varied programme for the year ahead. May is Membership Month and we will be consolidating our knowledge and understanding of Soroptimism and each other.
May also brings the Change of Insignia at Midland Arden Region which this year is in Stratford on Avon. Service to others is very important part of being a Soroptimist and in May we will be helping at Elizabeth House by stripping paintwork off benches and then re-painting them later in the week. I hope that as many of you as possible will help either strip or paint or both!
The year continues with a small presentation from Chernobyl Children’s Project Solihull (please bring a pound or two for a fun fundraiser) followed by a presentation from Breast Friends. July we have Tea with the Elderly at Elizabeth House followed by a rather special speaker – for me at least. Nick Page, Chief Executive from Solihull MBC will be coming to speak to us, followed by Pat Martin coming to update us on the Meru Garden Project.
August sees a fun night with a purpose – Supper & Stores – share your thoughts on your favourite book (children’s or adult) and then donate a copy to the Refuge. September sees a visit from Operation Christmas Child so we can send shoeboxes to children this Christmas. Fun in the Park will also be in September and I know that the organising group will need all the help they can get both in the run up to the event and on the day. Please make a date to support us on this special day. October sees this year’s John Lewis Fashion Show and a speaker from one of my charities, Vision Aid Overseas. Paint Knowle Pink will also be taking place supporting breast cancer charities. The SIGBI conference is in Cardiff and this year I can go – hurray!
November club night should be interesting and December we will have our Christmas Party at the West Midlands Bridge Club as well as the Christmas Craft Sale at The Manor House. January starts the New Year with a visit from the Hamlin Fistula UK Charity – I am hoping that between now and then we can knit and sew together at least one blanket or gift to give them when they visit, more details will follow. Quiz night is already booked for January, so you’d better start swotting now! February sees our Solihull Public Speaking Competition and at club night SI Bilston will be speaking about Karma Nirvana and the Lapel badges.
Goodness where is the year going… March we are have a guest speaker from Parliament on Beyond Suffragettes and the initiative of Vote 100. The year finishes off with my Charter event, which will be the Club’s 18th. Strictly comes to Solihull Soroptimists will be a mix of Solihull and World Championship Ballroom & Latin American dancing. Don’t worry if you don’t want to get up and have a go – participation will not be mandatory, having a fun time however will!
Other events include a trip to the Malvern Flower Show on 12 May, a tour around the RSC followed by Afternoon Tea at the Grosvenor Hotel, the trip to London in August, a small portioned Sunday Lunch followed by Pudding and more Pudding at The Pudding Club in Mickleton in September. John Lewis Fashion Show in October and we hope to fit in some Wine Tasting in November and a Tour of Birmingham Council Chamber – followed of course, by Afternoon Tea hopefully in the Edwardian Tea Rooms at the top of Birmingham Museum. My thanks go to Ann and the rest of the Events team who are already working hard on making these happen.
So before I start my year I just want to say a few thank yous – well, more than just a few really. Thank you to Immediate Past President Ann for her support, good humour and enthusiasm over the last few months. Thank you to Druckers for the tea & coffee. Thank you to Ann Keepax and Helen for all the years of support. Thank you to Druckers for the tea & coffee. Thank you to all on Exec and those who reached out and supported me when my self-confidence hit panic levels about 3 weeks ago. Thank you Druckers – in fact, why don’t we just permanently hire a table at Druckers ladies??
As you know, I work full-time but was persuaded that the role of President could be undertaken by someone working full-time. The role of the support groups is really coming into its own with more members taking an active part in the running of your club. I am heartened by members’ enthusiasm for the new ways of working and the way they are working together in teams. During Membership Month we will be touching on this, celebrating how well we are working together to move our club onwards.
I am honoured to be your President for this year. This is your club; you are doing a fantastic job in keeping us alive and kicking whilst enjoying fun & friendship – and long may it continue. Ladies, I salute you and offer you my year for Solihull & District Club 2017-2018. Thank you.
President, Elaine Stephens
Soroptimist International, Solihull & District