Inspirational Women Awards
On December 5th we held our Inspirational Women awards evening with a celebratory Club meeting at East Court. After introductions Sarah Fanner read out Hilary Clinton's speech at the United Nations 4th World Conference on women's rights. The speech celebrated the contributions women make in every aspect of human life: in the home, in the workplace, in the community, as citizens, leaders, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and learners.
The award recipients were Karen Dobres (Lewes Football Club), Jess Love (BBC Surrey and Sussex), and Mandy Dyer (East Grinstead and District Mental Health Association). They are all wonderful examples of women who have gone over and above in their support for community groups. All of them have made a selfless contribution and a significant difference. They have been an inspiration and are positive role models to others.
In recognition of the United Nations 16 days of activism against gender based violence and the Orange the World campaign club members all wore an item of orange for the evening. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Stacks Image 320
Stacks Image 322
Stacks Image 324
Stacks Image 326
Stacks Image 289
Stacks Image 292
Cross Stitch at Standen
Some of our members recently took part at our local National Trust property Standen in the Mr X Stitch challenge to decorate the Christmas Tree with hand X stitched Christmas baubles. On Friday 23rd November we attended the formal lighting of the Tree and surrounding area. There are 850 baubles made by groups from the local area and further afield. Each bauble has been labelled with the name of the stitcher and the group they belong to so in our case
Soroptimist International of East Grinstead.
Battle for the Ballot Box
To celebrate the centenary of some women getting the vote we recently held an event at the Meridian Hall in East Grinstead. The evening consisted of a talk by Frances Stenlake about the East Grinstead Suffrage Society and the Great Pilgrimage of 1913. Karen Dobres focused on equality of pay and opportunity in women's football at Lewes FC which is the first club in the world to pay its male and female teams the same wage. Sara Fanner performed two monologues - a comedy of reversed sex roles written in 1911, and an extract from Emmeline Pankhurst's Freedom or Death speech. There was also an art exhibition by the local all-female art group, Example, and a singing group performed two powerful suffrage anthems, The Pankhurst Anthem and March of the Women.
The event was supported by the Women's Vote Centenary Grant Scheme following our successful application for a grant.
  • 1 Local suffrage movement display
    1 Local suffrage movement display
  • 2 Frances Stenlake talking about the local suffrage movement
    2 Frances Stenlake talking about the local suffrage movement
  • 3 Frances  with Malcolm who provided the beautiful illustrations for her talk
    3 Frances with Malcolm who provided the beautiful illustrations for her talk
  • 4 Art work by Example
    4 Art work by Example
  • 5 Performing the suffrage anthems
    5 Performing the suffrage anthems
  • 6 Sara Fanner performing her monologues
    6 Sara Fanner performing her monologues
  • 7 Karen Dobres talks about Lewes FC
    7 Karen Dobres talks about Lewes FC
  • 8 SI East Grinstead members dressed as Suffragettes and Suffragists
    8 SI East Grinstead members dressed as Suffragettes and Suffragists
Stacks Image 261
Stacks Image 264
Stacks Image 267
18 members recently attended the annual Soroptimist conference held this year in Liverpool. We were very pleased to be asked to give a presentation on our work with Tadpoles Swimming Club and East Grinstead Mental Health Association. The conference was an opportunity to hear about the projects other clubs are in engaged in to improve the lives of women and girls locally, nationally and internationally. We also heard from inspirational speakers such a Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Terry Waite.
Stacks Image 113

A total of £500 was raised from sponsorship

Stacks Image 207
The Eve Appeal
At our meeting at the beginning of May we heard from Jenny Leonard about the work of The Eve Appeal which is the only UK charity raising awareness and funding research into better detection, risk prediction and prevention of gynaecological cancers. Jenny also talked about the Eve Appeal's GET LIPPY campaign - - to encourage speaking up and out about gynaecological cancers. Before the meeting we held a tea party with home baked cakes and raised £100 for the charity.
Stacks Image 200
Stacks Image 202
Supporting Local Charities
At our recent AGM we were pleased to be able to present cheques to the Peanut Ward at the Queen Victoria Hospital and to the Pericles project. The donation to the Peanut Ward is to support their CREW project. CREW stands for a Challenging Recreational Experience Weekend. It was set up 11 years ago to offer children attending Peanut Ward with burns and plastic surgery injuries a chance to spend a weekend with others who have gone through similar experiences. It offers a positive rehabilitation weekend with an emphasis on having fun!
Based in West Hoathly and Sharpthorne, Pericles is a pioneering and original training and work project for young people and adults with special learning needs and / or mental health problems. The project offers practical and artistic activities within small groups, complemented by specialist therapeutic activities.
The donations we made were as a result of our fundraising activities during the year including our Curry Evening, Summer Garden Party and Race Night.
Stacks Image 191
Visit from Cape Town
In April we welcomed a South African Soroptimist to East Grinstead. Alida is a member of the club based in Cape Town, a club with which we have had contact for many years. Members met with Alida at the Chequer Mead cafe where they discussed the various projects our respective clubs are involved with. We also discussed how we might work with the Cape Town club on a project to establish libraries in township schools which do not currently have any such facilities. Soroptimists clubs are found all over the world and often work together on joint projects and members can visit other clubs while travelling.
Stacks Image 179
100 Years of Women's Suffrage
To celebrate 100 years of votes for women, we mounted a Suffrage Display in East Grinstead Library throughout the month of April. A dressmaker's dummy dressed in a suffragist costume also appeared in the library's front window. To tie in with the library's Family History Month, local suffragists and suffragettes were celebrated. Three of our club members provided photographs, accompanied by a short piece of text, showing members of their families who were involved in the suffrage movement. Soroptimist International leaflets were available alongside the display to raise awareness of our organisation.
Stacks Image 172
East Grinstead Community Art Project
Jessops Construction who are working on a large-scale building project in East Grinstead invited local community groups to create and submit pieces of eye-catching artwork based around the town's culture and heritage to brighten up their construction site on King Street. The entries were judged and the best submissions were reproduced by a local sign company and mounted on the hoardings surrounding the site. Angela Edwards produced artwork on behalf of the Club and we were delighted that this was one of the chosen designs. Members of the Club's Art Group were invited by Jessops to attend the official unveiling of our Soroptimist panel.
Stacks Image 169
Supporting World Book Day
To mark World Book Day, we collected new and pre-loved books to donate to local charity,
Delight. The Delight charity supports children who have limited access to books at home. It aims to give children physical access to books and to fill them with a desire to read. It has been shown that twenty books in a child's home can increase that child's educational attainment and Delight works towards making this a reality.
Kathryn Mills, founder of Delight, visited us at our meeting on 21st March. She gave a short talk and slide show about the charity. She explained that the books would be sorted by volunteers and then passed onto the children they support through book fairs held at schools.
Poor literacy levels due to low parental engagement or poverty can strip children of life experiences and hinder creative development. To help address this, Delight also arranges other interactive arts experiences such as theatre programmes and visits to art galleries. This includes watching and then participating in specially adapted performances of Shakespearean plays. Art gallery visits followed by workshops with professional artists have also been organised culminating in children creating their own piece of art work which is then displayed in an exhibition.
For more information about the Delight charity, please visit their website at
The photograph shows Kathryn Mills being presented with the books we collected for Delight.
Two of our East Grinstead members, Sue Edgar and Janet Doyle, recently took to the airwaves on the Samantha Day show on local radio station, Meridian Radio. Samantha was interested to hear about our work both internationally and closer to home here in East Grinstead. We talked about the global range of Soroptimist International with over 3,000 clubs worldwide and our links with the United Nations where we have special consultative status. Local projects discussed included our support for a womensí refuge by providing shoe boxes at Xmas filled with toiletries and treats for the women and gifts for the children. We were also able to highlight some up and coming activities such as our stall at the Lions annual May Fair in East Grinstead High St on 7th May. We thoroughly enjoyed our chat with Samantha and the opportunity it provided to spread the word about Soroptimists, what we do and the fun and friendship we enjoy. With thanks too to our photographer, fellow club member Jane Oatey.
Stacks Image 146
Stacks Image 153
Stacks Image 150
Stacks Image 116
Some two years ago, the Club forged a link with Safe in Sussex with a view to providing essential toiletry items for women and children staying in their refuge accommodation. This relationship developed so that in 2016 we decided to prepare and pack shoe boxes for those spending Christmas in the refuge. This was such a success that the initiative was repeated for Christmas 2017. Boxes were filled with toiletries, small gifts and treats for the women and bags of gifts for boys and girls of differing ages were donated to the refuge along with wrapped boxes so that the contents could be tailored to the individual children in their care at Christmas. One of our members kindly sorted, stored and delivered the boxes and gifts; a mammoth task! At our January meeting, Margaret Bamford OBE DL, one of the charity's trustees, updated us on their progress as well as describing the delight on the faces of their guests when they opened their Christmas boxes. The charity continues to expand and is now providing not only safe refuge accommodation but also drop-in facilities and training programmes to help women gain self-confidence and move on with their lives. Programmes are also being run in schools to raise awareness of domestic abuse and assist young people in building healthy relationships. The Club is now investigating other ways of assisting the charity with its valuable work.
Stacks Image 62
Contact the Elderly Xmas Tea
Also in December we hosted our annual Christmas party for members of Contact the Elderly at Trinity Methodist Church.
As well as enjoying a festive tea of sandwiches, cakes and mince pies, the 13visitors and their drivers listened to Club members singing Christmas songs, and joined in a game of pass the parcel.
Contact the Elderly is an organisation which reaches out to seniors who are largely housebound and have little local family support, and takes them out to tea once a month either with organisations in the town, or to local private homes.
Stacks Image 13
Evening of Entertainmant
When our Federation President asked us to "Step Up and Lead the Way," we decided to support the Charity "Access Sport" which aims to inspire able bodied and disabled young men, women, boys and girls to "Step Up} and become active by taking part in sports. The Charity has helped the participants to gain confidence to accept more challenges by being part of teams and learning new skills.
We held an Evening of Entertainment at the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club for members and friends. With a supper of sausage and mash, followed by a study in chocolate dessert, the guests were entertained on the piano by Bill McEwen, along with Finn Anderson who performed a variety of his own compositions and well known songs. We finished with the surprise of the evening - two expert belly dancers!
At the Club’s AGM, a cheque for £453.00 was presented to Sue Wheeler, a Trustee of the Charity.
Stacks Image 123
Stacks Image 125
Stacks Image 127
Knitting Project.
Following on from our very successful Bee and Pillowcase Dress projects with our local girl guides and brownies we decided that we should pass on our knitting skills.
We contacted the Guide leaders who were delighted that we would be able to teach the girls, as hardly any of them knew even what knitting was!
We had a meeting where we all knitted, and showed those members who also wanted to learn what to do - and those who were a bit rusty - whilst we planned our groups and rotas for the coming months.
Altoghether there were around 60 girls involved in the project. We provided the wool and the needles, buying everything from local charity shops. We decided to make squares rather than count stitches and rows. At the beginning we taught wool winding and cord making, and for those more reluctant girls we made friendship bracelets. This proved a breakthrough as when we returned for our next session everyone wanted to knit!
We found a pattern for baby tops and hats for the older guides and at this point ladies from the Trefoil Guild decided to join in. Also as the mother of one of our members had recently moved to a retirement home and wanted something to do, she and some of the other ladies living there started to knit as well.
Our project with the girls started in April and by visiting the groups on a three weekly basis by July they could all knit (some telling us that they preferred it to using their iPads!)
We returned to each group in September and were handed lots of knitted squares which we sewed together to make a full size jacket and lots of scarves. The Trefoil Guild ladies and those from the retirement home who had been knitting also handed in bags of beautiful coloured baby tops.
At the end of September two of our members went up to St James Palace to donate all the knitting to The Queen Mothers Clothing Guild ( on their Collection Day for onward distribution to charities.
The final part of this very rewarding project is our presentation to the girls of a knitting badge designed by the eight year old grandson of one of our members which also has our Soroptimist logo on it.

Stacks Image 132
Stacks Image 76
Stacks Image 78
Ghana Education Project
At our Club meeting at the beginning of July, two students from Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School made an excellent presentation (with video, Ghanaian foods, arts and crafts) describing their visit last October to Ghana, a trip which included ten days working with the children at Kyabobo School, part of the Ghana Education Project (GEP)
The education at this school, unlike others in Ghana, is free because of the GEP fundraising but the girls do need to provide their uniforms.
During their stay, the girls taught lessons introducing the students to active learning, rather than the usual chalk and talk approach.
Alongside the Kyabobo school is a guest house and community centre which provide jobs for local people and a venue for children to participate in sport.
Every two years 15 girls from the Grammar school are chosen to work on the project and during that time they aim to raise £50,000, a target the current group has all but achieved thanks to fundraisers which included an all-day walk which alone accounted for around £10,000.
This is a long standing project which we have supported for a number of years through sponsorship activities, sales of goods, collecting stationery, books, art materials and sports equipment, computers and bicycles. More recently we set up a Bursary to pay for two girls education for 3 years at the newly built school.
Stacks Image 38
Stacks Image 40
May Fayre

On Bank Holiday Monday we took part in the East Grinstead Lions’ May Fayre. As well as offering delicious home-made cup cakes celebrating the Queen’s Birthday and selling jewellery, our stall also displayed information about our project work.
Our aim was to raise awareness of Soroptimists’project work supporting Sackville College, the Town Museum, Tadpoles and other local organisations. In addition, we took the opportunity to attract potential new members and raise money for the wider project work of Soroptimist International.
There was considerable visitor interest in the project work undertaken both locally and by Soroptimist International worldwide and it was a pleasure to be working alongside other town organisations.
All in all, this was a great success with the cupcakes selling like hot cakes!
Stacks Image 45
Stacks Image 49
Stacks Image 51
Stacks Image 53
East Grinstead Soroptimists “Clean for the Queen”

We recently took up the challenge to "Clean for the Queen" and litter picked our way through East Grinstead, filling 5 bags of rubbish during the afternoon.
Clean for The Queen is a campaign to clear up Britain in time for Her Majesty the Queen's 90th birthday, which will be officially celebrated in June 2016.
When she came to the throne litter was not the problem that it is today. Food packaging, plastic bottles, takeaway meals and cigarette butts have all contributed to a growing menace that affects our wildlife, streets, countryside and sense of pride.
Stacks Image 58
Stacks Image 69
Helping Handbags Worldwide

We are pleased to be supporting the newly formed Soroptimist club in Brighton with their project Helping Handbags Worldwide. This is a charity which aims to give women in crisis a helping hand from a fellow female. The charity is urging women to fill a handbag with sanitary and hygiene products, snacks and other small personal items to be passed to a homeless woman over Christmas. The project was the brain-child of Brenda Dempsey, a successful entrepreneur who had herself been homeless in the past.
At our meeting at the beginning of December, members wore something orange, the colour chosen by the UN Secretary-General’s UNITE campaign to end violence against women, a colour which symbolizes a brighter, violence-free future. On each of the 16 days of activism against gender violence from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day - Soroptimists examined gender based violence in its many forms including child, early and forced marriage, human trafficking, safe sanitation and domestic violence.
Further information on
Helping Handbags Worldwide can be found at
Stacks Image 85
Stacks Image 87
Days for Girls

Working with the international charity Days for Girls, we have been preparing feminine hygiene kits to be sent to girls in over 75 countries in six continents.
Days for Girls believes every girl in the world deserves education, safety and dignity, and works to give them access to sustainable hygiene products, providing not only kits but also helping women to establish their own production programmes. Without proper sanitary protection, girls are often unable to leave the house for days, resulting in the loss of education or family income. It is estimated that many girls miss up to 2 months schooling per year but, if they are able to stay in school, the poverty cycle can be broken.
At our meeting at the beginning of April we produced over 20 attractive drawstring bags containing washable feminine hygiene materials, soap, flannels and underwear. This will be an ongoing project which will help transform the lives not only of the girls concerned but also their families and local communities.
Stacks Image 94
Supporting the work of Canine Partners

One of President Janet Vanderhook’s main charities this year has been Canine Partners. This charity founded 25 years ago trains and partners dogs with people with disabilities. These amazing dogs assist their partners with everyday practical tasks such as opening and closing doors and cupboards, pressing buttons and switches, unloading washing machines and spin driers and undressing at bedtime. The partners are responsible for the dogs’ daily exercise, grooming, feeding and playing; giving them a real reason to get up in the morning and venture outside the home. In shops the dogs assist by handing over their partner’s purse thus promoting conversation and interest amongst proprietors and shoppers alike.
Last week Club members visited Canine Partners Headquarters in Midhurst to see how the charity trains its canine and human partners and to hand over a cheque for £150 making a total donation for the year of £500.
Stacks Image 101
Lobbying Against FGM
During 2014 we started to work on lobbying activity to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and secure improved NHS funding for clinics which can provide support to women with physical and mental problems who have suffered FGM. On January 14th five Club members attended the UN WOMEN National Committee United Kingdom Conference
FGM: a multi-agency approach to end violence against women: moving on in partnership. The conference was chaired by Dr Comfort Momoh, MBE, a FGM Consultant/Public Health Specialist and the speakers included Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, and Alimatu Dimonekene, FGM Campaigner and Community Activist. Dame Marion Roe also attended. As an MP in 1985 Dame Marion had succeeded in putting through a private members bill banning violence against women and FGM.