What is a Soroptimist? The word Soroptimist is derived from two Latin words ‘soror’ which means ‘sister’ and ‘optima’ which means ‘the best’. Put these two words together and you get ‘Soroptimist’, which can be translated as ‘the best for women’, which is what we have been working towards for the past 100 years.
The first Soroptimist Club was founded in Oakland, California in 1921 and has spread to 72,000 members in 212 countries. We are now a global volunteer movement, advocating for human rights and gender equality and, at the heart of this advocacy, is our work across eight United Nations Centres, where our representatives ensure that the voices of women and girls are heard.
The first big international project was in the Maldives in 1978. Other big international projects have been
- Water, women and leadership, responding to water scarcity
- Educate to Lead – based in Nepal
- See Solar, Cook Solar – working with women in Mali, Uganda, Fiji, Nepal and PNG
- Birthing in the pacific, based in Papua New Guinea
Our current International project is ‘the Road to Equality’ which covers the areas and challenges of Human trafficking, Female genital mutilation, domestic violence, Older persons, migration and child marriage.
SI Geelong also celebrated our own milestone last year – 60 years as a club.
Some of the things we have been involved in over the years are:
- Running the first international food festival in the early 1970’s – which has morphed into the Pako Fest of today
- Funding a raised scented garden at the McKellar Centre
- Planting trees at Freshwater Creek, pulling up boneweed in the You Yangs, and supporting a dry aviary in the Serendip Sanctuary,
- Providing funds for the Rape Crisis Centre, Horizon House, Bethany, Zena and Leukaemia community house.
- We have donated bedding sets for women’s refuges
- We have provided Bursaries for 2 girls from refugee families to continue their year 11 and 12 studies at North Geelong Secondary College
- we have provided Scholarships for 2 migrant women to continue their English as an Additional Language studies at the Gordon TAFE
- continued to support two girls through primary school in Zambia.
And Covid did not stop us either – in fact it gave us the opportunity to undertake several more challenges:
- Zoom conversation sessions with EAL students from the Gordon – which has developed into an ongoing project this year that that we all enjoy. It was a real pleasure to be able to meet the students at the end of last year over a cup of coffee.
- contributed over 50 beanies to the Andrew Love Centre for the patients of chemotherapy.
- donated food to the Bellarine Food Bank, money to the St Mary’s food pantry, toys to the Bellarine Kinship Careers Group and pamper packs to the Wesley Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre
- donated Geelong Food Relief food vouchers to those who need them and knickers and face washers to ’Days for Girls’
- collated and distributed bags containing books and other items to over 200 prep students.
- This year, to celebrate Soroptimists International Centenary year, is to plant 100 trees along the banks of Cowie Creek.
We’ve introduced a school club category where the object is to support young people to develop leadership, organisational and social skills through participation in their school club’s activities and projects, thus fostering a lifetime commitment to helping others and their communities. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Photo supplied, International Women’s Day Breakfast 2021.