Soroptimist Club Projects Opening Doors to Education – International Literacy Day

This year marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and
UNESCO is celebrating it under the banner “Reading the Past, Writing the

Watch a message from Soroptimist International President Yvonne Simpson.


International Literacy Day 2016 celebrates and honours the
past five decades of national and international engagement, efforts and
progress made to increase literacy rates around the world. It also
addresses current challenges and looks to innovative solutions to
further boost literacy in the future. 



Video: UNESCO – Literacy opens doors to new worlds of possibility – Forest Whitaker


SI Lautoka, Fiji

Literacy ‘Readathon’ Awards

Working with teachers of Lautoka Sanatan, Students of
Lautoka Sanatan, Miss Neha Narayan (Miss Sugar 2015- Local Pageant Queen) who
was a special guest at the prize presentations for the top summaries and the CITY
STAR Newspaper for news coverage. 


SI Lautoka members raised the funds through a ‘workathon’
for this project in order to promote reading through the donation of story
books to students of Lautoka Sanatan Primary school. With the aim of improving
the standard of English in Primary school students a donation was this time
last year, to mark International Literacy day to create a better effect on the
importance of reading.


The Head Teacher of the school was informed and a programme
was organized at the school for book presentation. Advocacy on literacy was given by the club to the students on the importance of literacy through a
‘Read-a-thon’ programme where students were encouraged to submit summaries of
books. The deadline given for summaries to be submitted was 30th October 2015.
The club hoped to see a good number of summaries submitted by the students as
they had been advised during the advocacy that the three best summaries would
receive prizes. The presentation of prizes took place during SI Lautoka’s
Annual Sports Awards function on November 26 ,2015 and Miss Sugar 2015, Neha
Narayan, was a special guest.

Around 30 summaries from students and it was evident that
the students not only showed interest in reading the books but they put in a
lot of effort in making their summaries attractive and colorful. The three best
summaries were received from Laisenia Seru (year 6), Prabhashni Goundar and
Sristi Jiya Raj (both year four students) and they were presented with gift
vouchers from Paper Power Bookshop for their school stationary needs for 2016.

Mrs Goundar (Mother of Prabhashni Goundar) was very happy
that the club took the initiative to promote literacy. She said: "my
daughter has taken a lot of interest to read and prepare the summaries and we
are happy that this has provided her with an avenue to learn".

The project is to continue at other schools around Lautoka.


SI Phoenix, Golden
West, USA

Haiti Scholarships, in partnership with the ‘What If

Haiti has the lowest Human Development Index in the
Americas. The literacy rate is 60%, compared to 90% for the Caribbean/Latin
American region. Life expectancy is 62 years on average and sixty-one percent
of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 daily.
Unfortunately, education is a privilege, not a right. Public schools in Haiti
accommodate less than 10% of the school-age population. As a result it is
difficult for young women to get training and education.


SI Phoenix partnered with the ‘What If Foundation’, which
was established by Margaret Trost, the sister of a former member of SI Phoenix,
to provide post-secondary scholarships to three outstanding young Haitian
women. These scholarships enabled the women to learn skills that would enable
them to become financially successful and to support themselves and their


Soroptimist International
of Downtown Redding, Sierra Nevada, USA

Water and Stones International Project

Addressing the lack of access to education for young girls
in Uganda, Soroptimist International of Downtown Redding, provided financial
support for four girls so they were able to attend school for five years.

The aim was for the girls to continue to acquire basic
mathematical skills and literacy in order to prepare them for advanced
education, or a business that might lead to economic self-sufficiency. The
girls sponsored keep in touch with the club on an annual basis and feedback
from a local partner contact keeps them informed of improvements made at the
school and in general how well the school was doing.

An ongoing project, Soroptimist International of Downtown
Redding is continuing to support the project on a long term basis.


SI Bangsar, Malaysia

Empowerment of Sivananda by three NGOs

SI Bangsar worked with SOLS 24/7 (Science of Life Studies),
a humanitarian NGO, running education and social empowerment programmes, to
teach English literacy in the Sivananda Homes. Sivananda
Homes for underprivileged children are run by an NGO, the Divine Life Society,
and operate two homes: One for boys at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur and another for
girls in Kuala Kubu Baru, in a rural community one and a half hours from Kuala


The ongoing project aims to improve English communication
amongst these underprivileged boys and girls, as they are schooled in Tamil
(Indian dialect), the primary language, and also to encourage English literacy
via the community library in Batu Caves (for the boys) and another for
the girls in Kuala Kubu Baru, a rural community.

The club set up community libraries in four centres: Batu Caves, Kuala Kubu Baru, Bangsar Suria
South and Janda Baik
. Students are encouraged to read the English books in
more conducive environments. At the Sivananda Homes, SOLS 24/7 were invited to
conduct English reading classes in a fun and interactive manner. Josefine
Betram (Sweden), Alice (Italy) and Mario (Spain) all representatives from SOLS
24/7 conducted the English classes. For greater effectiveness, Alice focused on
the girls, while Mario the boys in separate lessons. SOLS 24/7 generously
donated 300 books towards this cause. As SI Bangsar also has Bangsar Suria and
Janda Baik projects, some of the 300 books were channelled into them as well.


It is of great joy to the club that students, through
experiential learning, will improve their English, and be competent and
confident in speaking and writing. SOLS 24/7 have agreed to collaborate with SI
Bangsar on more similar projects.


SI Bombay Chembur, India

Literacy skills for the underprivileged women helpers at
Rasayani Campus

Pillai HOC College of Arts, Science and Commerce partnered
with SI Bombay Chembur to provide ancillary women staff with basic literacy and
basic computer skills.

The project aimed to Impart the essential literacy, numeracy
and computer skills to the women ancillary staff of an educational campus, so
as to enable them to be able to read and write important essential notices,
banking, bills etc, in their daily professional and personal lives. The
theme for the event was ‘Literacy as a
bridge from Misery to Hope’.


Two educational sessions on Verbal, Numerical and Computers
skills were conducted for all the women helpers who come from underprivileged
communities. Thirty women attended the programme. The first session focused on the
teaching of Basic Verbal and Numerical Skills in the classroom, and was
conducted by the students of the Pillai college. Subsequently, a talk was given
by Soroptimist member, Dr. Lata Menon, on the role of education as a tool for personal
empowerment and its importance in building self-esteem. The second session was
conducted in the computer laboratory where the basics of computer skills were
taught and practiced.

By enabling the women to read and write for basic day-to-day
needs, the club hoped to build confidence and empower them to become
independent in their lives. Also, by involving students in this act of
teaching, they hoped to make ensure their position as responsible citizens and
to see themselves as change agents in building an educated nation. These
sessions boosted the confidence of the women and they were committed to continue
practicing what they learnt. The students of the Pillai college also hoped to
continue teaching them on a regular basis.


The informative talk on the power of education, acted as an
intense motivational drive for the women. They were both responsive and
inquisitive This session boosted their confidence and sense of happiness that
it was resolved mutually that such activities would not be limited to one day,
but would be continued on a regular basis.

Kunda Shinde, a participant of the session said that the
talk and time spent in the class and laboratory reinforced her will to learn
again and was happy for being given this opportunity.


SI Batangas Premier, Philippines,

Island Soroptimist Library
Access (ISLA)

Project partnership with the Department of Education,
Batangas City Division Parang Cueva Elementary School Parent – Teacher
Association of Parang Cueva Elementary School

Parang Cueva Elementary School is located in an island which
is largely underdeveloped and isolated from the main province of Batangas.
There are about 194 students of which 87 are girls. Their school has no library
or sources of reading materials for the students.

SI Batangas Premier decided to partner with the Department
of Education and Parang Cueva Elementary School to refurbish an extra room and
retrofit it to host a library and build a sizeable collection of books and
education sources. They encourage reading as a way to enhance learning in
school and develop curiosity for the world to provide student with important
life skills

With this project it was hoped that girls would greatly
benefit from a working library, well-stocked with classic literature,
encyclopedia and multi-media learning tools.

The club is seeing the students spending more time in the
library reading rather than just playing during their free time. They are
curious in reading the different kinds of books and learning new things.

The club plans to replicate this project in other remote


SI PretoriaTshwane, South Africa

Tateni-St Francis
Drop In Centre Literacy and Lifeskills Project

Partner: Tateni Community Care Services / Qualibooks / SI
Southern England Region /SI Taunus

This project works with orphans and vulnerable children between
the ages of 6 and 16. Tateni,
the organisation that runs the centre and members of SI Pretoria-Tshwane
undertook to help address Tateni’s capacity needs by tackling literacy issues, offering
regular educational and life skills enrichment to the children, as well as the
training/upskilling and support of some carers employed by Tateni.


The project set up a functioning library with almost 3000
books on the property of a local church which hosts the Tateni-St Francis
Drop-In Centre. It paid a community librarian to train and support employed
carers of Tateni and to work with the children in the library to encourage the
love of books and reading by the children. A pen-pal relationship has been
built with pupils at Moorside Primary School, Harrogate. Club members read with
the children and extend their world through books.

20 children use the library three times a week, either
borrowing books or reading/listening to stories and engaging in discussion. A
community librarian has part-time work and carers have been trained to manage a
library and promote literacy – all are women. Children are linked with children
in the UK.

International of Calcutta

Hold My Hand Project

SI Calcutta
commenced the Hold My Hand Project (HMH) in 2009 to supplement the formal school
education of underprivileged children with free tutorials in English and Mathematics.
The project focused on strengthening the educational base of first generation learners.
This is the 7th year of its running.


India is home to the largest population of illiterate adults in world.  Fortunately, many illiterate, underprivileged parents
have realized the importance of education and are therefore sending their children
to school. These first generation learners find it difficult to keep up with the
school syllabus due to lack of guidance at home. HMH Project was envisaged to help
such children with tutorials in English , Mathematics, soft skills and other inputs
which help the children keep up with the academic pressures.


The project has been ongoing
since 2009. In the first few years, it was conducted at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation
School at Chetla, Kolkata, where the children were of the age group of 8‐12 years. In 2015 , the project was shifted to Sujata Devi Vidyamandir,
a school for underprivileged girls where presently, 25 children in the age group
10‐15 years attend the tutorials on weekdays after regular school hours.
A tutor has been appointed for the two subjects and SI Calcutta members supervise
the classes and give inputs in reading/soft skills through story telling, quizzes
and other activities. The children are given healthy snacks daily for better
nutrition, and toiletries for maintenance of personal hygiene. They are gifted new
clothes during the festive season. They are also given book grants for inculcating
the reading habit.


There has been
considerable improvement in the academic performance of the children who attend
the tutorial classes. Book grants encourage them to delve into the literary world.
Their horizons are broadened through extracurricular activities and interaction
with SI members. They are made aware of concepts of peace, goodwill and conflict
resolution through talks .They also enjoy goody bags on special occasions. It
may be said that, the HMH project has not only improved academic achievement, but
also opened new vistas for the students.

The club has had continued support from its Friendship Link, Soroptimist
International of the Olympic Rainforest, USA,  for the project. SI Calcutta hopes
to continue the project and increase the number of beneficiaries year after year.





Subscribe to receive the Soroptimist International Newsletter by email.