GIVING BACK – Members of the Central Alberta Soroptimist Club pose for a shot at their recent Western Canada Regional Conference. Back from left are Brittany Stelmack

GIVING BACK – Members of the Central Alberta Soroptimist Club pose for a shot at their recent Western Canada Regional Conference. Back from left are Brittany Stelmack

Soroptimist Red Deer – a group with a big impact

International organization aims to assist women through various programs

  • May. 21, 2014 4:27 p.m.

Soroptimist International’s (SI) Red Deer chapter is always hard at work to build better lives for women and girls.

Some of the ways the organization does this includes raising awareness about human trafficking, providing opportunity awards and grants for mothers to continue post-secondary education and providing ‘disaster grants’ for victims of man-made and natural disasters.

“One of the philosophies is that when you help a woman, you help a family, you help a community and you help the world,” said regional chair Dolly Berg.

“It’s one lady we touch, but then it touches her family and then she is able to share her success with a community.”

Soroptimist hosts several events annually that are major contributions to funds generated for grants and awards. These events are a Mother/Daughter Conference in February, an International Women’s Day Luncheon/Award Ceremony in March and a Pyjamas and Pearls Fundraiser in November.

This year two local awards totalling $4,000 in grants were awarded to women in the community through the ‘Women’s Opportunity Awards’. The western Canada region, from Manitoba to B.C. raised more than $60,000 to give to women who are in dire financial need, so that they may continue their post-secondary educations.

The other major award that Soroptimist offers is the Violet Richardson Award that is given to an outstanding female youth who shows leadership skills and dedication in volunteering.

“It’s amazing to find out what some of these young girls do – they just blow some adults out of the water. These are honour students, they volunteer, they work – it’s surprising and absolutely amazing,” said Sherri Smith.

For the Mother/Daughter Conference, speakers are brought in to touch on issues such as self-esteem, self-confidence, body issues, puberty, peer pressure, abusive relationships and more.

Berg and Smith stress that these workshops are not only beneficial to the younger generation, but to the adults that attend as well.

“The effect that we have on the mothers, not just the girls, is really awesome. By making it mandatory for a girl to be accompanied by a mom, aunt or grandmother, we are ensuring that what the girls are hearing, the adults are hearing as well,” explained Smith.

The benefits of these programs can be shared through multi-generations and the influence of the conference can reach a diverse audience, she added.

Some of the current missions for Soroptimist include raising awareness for both human trafficking and changing prostitution laws in Canada.

“We are encouraging people to read up about the proposed changes to prostitution laws in Canada, and what that means and what will happen if people don’t raise awareness.”

The official project that has been launched is called ‘Soroptimists STOP Trafficking’.

The program’s goal is to raise awareness about the issue and allow members of the community to see how Soroptimist is working with other organizations to end human trafficking.

As an entire organization, SI operates in more than 100 countries and has almost 95,000 members worldwide.

As well, they are proud to be affiliated with the United Nations.

The United Nations partnership with Soroptimist means that they may request an item on the Economic and Social Council. This exposure and influence is huge because it allows subsequent groups to be supported in their battles for human rights regarding women in need.

“Our mandate is to help girls and women, so ultimately if a group asks us for sponsorship or something, we need to know that it is going to help a girl or a woman directly,” said Smith.

More information on Soroptimist International and their upcoming events can be found on their web site and facebook page.