Other activities during lockdown.
As well as providing donations to Open House (see below) our members have been also been responding to the National Trust's request to support Plantlife's No Mow May by not mowing lawns to let wild flowers bloom and provide a vital source of nectar for bees and other insects. On a single summer day one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers producing 1 kilo of nectar sugar, enough to support 96,000 honey bees per day. With just 1% of Britain's countryside now providing this floral feast for pollinators, our lawns are a potential major source of nectar. Members participating in this project share information online contributing to Every Flower Counts, an initiative that aims to calculate our first ever National Nectar Score.
Our ongoing work with three local schools has not ceased as a result of lockdown, merely taken on a different format. We have been providing the children with weekly activities based upon STEM, Fairtrade, the RSPB and nature to supplement the curriculum work supplied by teachers. Children were challenged to submit pictures of anything special they had seen and one sent in a photo of a white squirrel!
The lockdown has also not stopped our work with East Grinstead and District Association for Mental Health (EGDAMH). During these times of isolation, support for those who suffer from mental health problems, often live alone and are finding the lockdown difficult to manage is even more vital. Club members keep in contact with regular phone chats, provide ideas for home activities and lift people's spirits

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Helping Crawley Open House during lockdown
For many years we have been supporting Open House with gifts of food, clothing, household equipment and money and most recently heard about the Charity's future plans at our meeting in December last year.
As the lockdown took hold we contacted Open House to ask whether there was anything we could do to assist them in these difficult and unprecedented times. We learnt that the hostel and three move-on houses are full and the day centre partially open. In addition Open House is working with the local council and other agencies to look after around 70 people in temporary accommodation. Although they are not able to accept donated goods at present, the charity is in great need of donations of non-perishable food and cleaning products. Having received a list of necessities, our Club President purchased a range of goods to deliver to Crawley. Guests of Open House are permitted to bring their dogs with them so dog food made it onto the list!
This is an ongoing project and relationship but we are keen to ensure that any help we provide is exactly what it required at that particular time.
Our Annual Newsletter

Every year we produce a newsletter outlining our activities over the past 12 months which we send to our Soroptimist Friendship clubs throughout the world.

Download the newsletter
to catch up on what we have been doing in 2019.

Supporting a Community Garden

For a couple of years we have been looking after the planting and maintenance of a raised flower bed which is part of the Windmill Lane Community Garden project. We've continued our involvement and this spring we have a wonderful display of tulips which again have given a great splash of colour.
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New link established to support the Ghana Education Project

We are long time supporters of the Ghana Education Project and the Kyabobo Girls School providing financial support for the education of three girls at the school and supplying stationery, furniture and equipment. Our International Projects page gives more details. We have recently established a friendship link with the Soroptimist club in Teme, Ghana and are planning to work with them on joint projects for GEP. The Teme club will also be providing financial sponsorship for the education of three girls.

In 2019 the first intake of pupils graduated from the school with outstanding results. 84% achieved grades that afforded them access to tertiary education and, exceptionally for the district, 30% passed at a level which qualifies them for entry to Ghana's top universities. Five students have already taken up university places and others are intending to gain work experience before applying next year. We are delighted that our support of the students is meeting one of our Soroptimist goals to inspire girls to become leaders of tomorrow and is now coming to fruition.

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Visit to SI Pune Metro East for their 10th Anniversary Celebrations
Four of our members expressed their absolute delight and enjoyment with the opportunities and experiences that SI Pune Metro East organised to celebrate their 10th Charter Anniversary. Our members travelled to India, joining other UK Soroptimists and some from Israel and Japan, and describe their visit below:
It was a very special occasion. We learned so much about Pune Metro East's excellent community projects, teamwork, friendship, Indian cultural heritage, history and delicious Indian food. SI Pune Metro East Club members opened their homes to all of us and extended the warmest of welcomes. Seeing the fusion of traditional and modern dance by the Rochana-Lotus Blooms was a brilliant experience and all of us were fascinated to learn so much on the Heritage walk around Pune.
The follow-up tour of Kerala was stunning and gave us another intimate insight into beautiful India..... its vastness and incredible variety in the different states. The beauty of the southern back waters was breath-taking as were the views across the hill stations and tea plantations. Seeing the wildlife was so vivid and real. Then the museum visits, cookery demo, KathaKali traditional show, banana leaf meals, martial arts show and sightseeing trips all contributed to making the visit sensational.
SI Pune Metro East really met Soroptimist values of vision and mission ñ creating a strong and peaceful international community by inviting us all, through the hand of friendship, to their wonderful 10th Anniversary celebration and tour.

East Grinstead Club brings Christmas Cheer to Local Women's Refuge
For the past few years we have been providing shoe boxes for distribution to women and children spending Christmas at Safe in Sussex Women's Refuge. Shoe boxes are covered in cheerful Christmas paper, those for the women being filled with toiletries, stationery items, books, craft kits and t
reats. Last Christmas we were asked specifically for travel cups to enable the women to take hot drinks into their rooms without fear of spillage. The boxes for the children are left empty with bags of gifts -toys, books, school equipment, bath products, games and sweets - being donated separately so that the Refuge staff can pack appropriate boxes for the children staying with them at the time. Gloves, scarves and hats for all ages are also gratefully received.
We were delighted this January to receive a card, hand-made by one of the younger children, with comments from some of the recipients of the boxes. Some are very touching and uplifting -
'I can\t believe this. I haven't had a Christmas like this since I was a child', 'This gift has made my Christmas', 'It is such a difficult time and this has been lovely. Thank you', 'I love my box of delights, so thoughtful'. No-one can be in any doubt that this is a very worthwhile project and one which should be repeated in future years.
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Crawley Open House
One of the charities we continue to support is Crawley Open House and so we were delighted to welcome Ian Wilkins, Fundraising and Relationships Manager at Crawley Open to our meeting on 4th December. Ian outlined the wide-ranging work of Open House in its support of those suffering homelessness and social exclusion. Open House runs a 24 bed hostel, and a day centre providing food, hot drinks and shelter and for those who need them, general advice, housing and resettlement support, mental health and substance misuse support and counselling. We also heard about progress with the new resource centre which will deliver more training and employability sessions enabling clients to be better prepared for finding, sustaining and retaining jobs. All of this against a background of considerable funding challenges during the past 18 months. We subsequently organised a collection of new underwear which we delivered just before Christmas. The photograph shows Ian with President Hilary and President Elect Sue.
Rocket Girls

In October the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing inspired us to run a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) event for local girls in order to encourage them to study subjects in fields that are traditionally viewed as being male dominated. By offering hands-on activities led by strong, dynamic, female specialists, we wanted to break down gender stereotyping and show girls that they can make a significant contribution to the workplace. The event included workshops for Year 9 girls led by a female aeronautical engineer which focused on Lego robotics challenges alongside advice on potential education and career paths; programming and coding activities with Ozobot robots for Years 5/6 plus a Key Stage 2 assembly by local engineering company Thales; and spaghetti/marshmallow structure challenges by Edwards Vacuum and a presentation about moon landings followed by a carousel of five activities.

A similar Programme ran in the evening for Brownies and Guides, with their own badge!
Photographs courtesy of Fiona Watkins.
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East Grinstead Members attend the Soroptimist International Convention in Kuala Lumpur

Three of our members recently travelled to Kuala Lumpur for the Soroptimist International (SI) Convention which is held every 4 years. Soroptimist International has over 75,000 members in 122 countries and the Convention is a wonderful opportunity to meet with other Soroptimists from around the world - Ghana to Korea and New Zealand to Canada and the United States - and hear about the projects which they are involved with. The Convention also provided an opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers describing how they transformed their lives and helped improve the status of women and girls. This re-enforced for our members how our projects contribute to this and also to the United Nations initiatives - because of its project work SI has consultative status at the UN's Economic and Social Council which gives our organisation a voice on important issues.

The Keynote Speaker was Christina Lamb OBE, author and Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Sunday Times, London. She gave a thought provoking speech about the inspirational people she has met on her travels as a war correspondent, a traditionally male dominated arena. She spoke of the challenges she faced as a woman in the industry and of how she sees war through the eyes of women. She shared her experiences of women behind the lines, of the use of rape as a weapon of war, of the true spoils of war, and of traumatic scenes but interjected with hope and a powerful representation of the strength, resilience and survival of the many women caught up in conflict.

There was also a chance to explore Kuala Lumpur, the youngest and largest city in Malaysia, as well as Sarawak and Borneo
with a wildlife tour and a visit to the Orangutan nature reserve.
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Waitrose Community Matters

During June, we were one of three organisations selected for Waitrose's Community Matters - Green Token initiative. In pitching for inclusion we highlighted local projects that we support in the areas of Education, Environmental Sustainability and Food Security and Healthcare.
We work with local schools, Brownies and Guides, East Grinstead Mental Health Association, Sussex women's refuges as well as environmental activities at Chequer Mead and East Court.

A huge thanks to our local Waitrose shoppers who supported us by piling in Green Tokens, rewarding the Club with a cheque for £400 which will be used to continue our support to local groups.
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At our meeting during Mental Health Awareness week we wore green in support of the green ribbon which is the international symbol for mental health awareness. Additionally, working with East Grinstead Mental Health Association, we are currently supporting a monthly coffee morning at Chequer Mead Theatre cafe between 10.30-12.00 - please see the leaflet below for details.
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