As much of the world is forced to press pause, as the COVID-19 pandemic surges through our health, social and economic worlds, Soroptimists are continuing to do what they do best – ‘Stepping Up’, and advocating and taking action to support women and girls at grassroots level. Here is the first in a regular round-up of news on how you – are making a difference to the lives of women and girls during these difficult times.
SI Petaling Jaya, Malaysia is running the Hungerbuster programme, making sure people do not go without, delivering fresh fruit, eggs, noodles and vegetables to three shelter homes. The club was also able to organise, thanks to a donor, a brand new fridge for a boys shelter, and a van load of food for a refugee centre – 100kg cabbage, 100 kg potatoes, beans, noodles, milk powder, biscuits, bread and more! According to the Centre, 65 families – and SI Petaling Jaya and the Hungerbuster programme has so far supported 300 people during lockdown.
Also in Malaysia, SI Ipoh, has supplied lunches for 30 children at the Bekor low-cost flats during lockdown period. Due to the pandemic and a Movement Control Order (MCO), many vulnerable families and their children continue to be severely affected, and struggle to provide food for their children. During the MCO, SI Ipoh is sponsoring the 30 children thanks to the help of another wonderful lady from the local area who is cooking and delivering the lunches. This way, the children have a decent meal, and the club is able to empower a local woman with a job and she is now able to feed her own family.
SI Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has had a long relationship working with National Centre Against Violence – almost two decades, and earlier this month club members donated food, children’s clothing and toys to the Centre to help during this time of crisis.
SI Bayside, Australia has been busy creating care packages to support front line nurses during COVID-19, whilst SI Kemang, Indonesia is involved in fund raising to buy and distribute self protection equipment for medical teams in several hospitals in Jakarta and other cities.
SI Caracas, Venezuela has not let the coronavirus stop them from assisting the women and girls in their community. They have held online workshops to continue to support their Live Your Dream Award recipients, delivering food to low-income women, and sharing infographics with critical information to keep their community safe. President Alexandra says, “This is not for us a time of pandemic, it is a time of opportunities to continue helping our women, especially those who do not have to eat, those who experience domestic violence and those who live in street conditions.”
The Union of Italy has launched a national solidarity project offering free psychological support during the pandemic. Many professionals have made their expertise and experience available to offer telephone assistance, including Paola Cattenati a member of the Cremona Club. The pandemic is of course causing stress and anxiety for many, and exacerbating inequalities, particularly domestic and family violence, and Soroptimists of Italy are delivering the service, managed by a team of 30 members including psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, from Monday to Saturday, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and via WhatsApp at +44 7857 546048.
Members of SI Widnes, England has donated household items such as bedding, towels, kitchen utensils etc., to Night Stop, a charity that supports the homeless, for the two new houses recently acquired. Members have also donated nappies, wipes and toys for the children at Changing Lives (Women’s Refuge), and are supporting each other by keeping in regular contact, doing shopping and collecting prescriptions for one another when in self-isolation.
SI Manhattan Beach, California, delivered a Live Your Dream Award, while social distancing. Congratulations to Priscilla as she studies to become an Registered nurse, combining online classes, raising two children and maintaining a job!
SI of the Korea Region saw people struggling to obtain masks, Governor Jungmi and the region board decided to help by purchasing masks in bulk and sending them to each club’s Live Your Dream Award recipients, Dream It, Be It participants, and other local organisations. Donations flooded in from members to support the mask project, allowing the region to not only send out 18,900 masks but to also make a cash donation to two medical centers (approximately $34,000!). The clubs and region received dozens of heartfelt thank you letters!
SI Rossendale, England heard how women were more at risk from domestic violence due to the pandemic – many forced to stay at home with the perpetrators. Some had lost support services they relied on, in addition to a loss of income, and the need to take on the tasks of home schooling, all adding to the pressure. The club reached out to a refuge to ask how they were coping., and were given the message that it was tough; the demand on services were increasing and they were finding themselves stretched. Supplies of basic necessities were running low, and club members decided to use crowdfunding to raise funds to purchase essential items, from a community project ‘The Red Bag Project’, which provides such items. Over seven days, they raised over £250.
Many disadvantaged children in South Africa receive their only meal of the day at school, and during the pandemic, these are of course now closed. One Soroptimist is principal of a school in Atteridgeville, an impoverished area West of Pretoria, and is in possession of a permission letter, allowing her to go out and about during the lockdown period. SI Pretoria-Tshwane decided to fundraise for emergency food supply for school children of Makghato Primary School in Atteridgeville, who would normally be part of a feeding scheme at the school. The club considered this the fastest and most reliable way to get food out. The food was bought and distributed by the principal and team, to shelters in the area that families of the school children are making use of.