Band of sisters open their doors to new members

The Newtownabbey and district branch Soroptimists branch meet in the Monkstown Village Centre.
The Newtownabbey and district branch Soroptimists branch meet in the Monkstown Village Centre.

Women of Newtownabbey have been called to come together and help continue the good work of one of the borough’s finest institutions.

The Newtownabbey branch of Soroptimist International is opening its doors to new members and asking women from all backgrounds to come along to its information event later this month to see what the organisation can offer them.

The organisation was first established in America in 1921 and the Newtownabbey branch has been going strong for over 30 years.

It offers women from different backgrounds, the opportunity to play an important role in their own community as well as helping improve the lives of women and children in some of the world’s worst war-torn and poverty stricken regions.

Along the way members form lifelong friendships and pick up valuable skills which can help them in other areas of their lives as well as having a bit of fun into the bargain.

“It’s really like a band of sisters,” president Isobel McComb told the Times.

“Our main aims are to educate, empower and enable women in order to give them a better life. We have helped improve the lives of women and children caught up in the sex trade in Thailand and those who have had their lives torn apart by the conflict in Seirra Leone.

“Our aim is to provide them with the support they desperately need in the short term and to help them get to a point where they can become self sufficient.

“The organisation has consultative status with the United Nations and we have worked on bringing in an international ban on the use of cluster bombs. We also lobby elected representatives and recently helped people caught up in the illegally trafficking trade in Northern Ireland.”

She continued: “Our current project is the Birthing in the Gambia (BIG) programme to set up centres of refuge and medical facilities for women and children.

“Women who are pregnant in that country face having to walk hundreds of miles to get care and they are dying or losing their babies. It is something that should not be happening.

“That project was started by our member and past president Rita Allen and we are starting to see the benefits come through now for all those living in the country.”

As well as a global focus, the group also plays a leading role in the Newtownabbey community.

The members have supported many charities including the Children’s Hospice, the Simon Community and Women’s Aid. They have also held speaking competitions for young women over the years.

Isobel continued: “Literally our name means ‘best for women’. And as well as helping women and children in impoverished areas around the world we work on community development and on ourselves. It’s to try and make the world a better place, but also to improve yourself.

“We are a worldwide organisation with over 3,000 clubs across 100 countries and our members are free, if they want, to visit other branches. Over the years we have arranged many trips abroad to other groups and been made very welcome.

“Our members, through our work, develop their management and leadership skills which can prove a massive benefit in their own personal lives and careers. As well as the work abroad and at home it’s also a place to meet new people and develop lifelong friendships. You really are joining a family, and we have a bit of craic along the way.”

The Soroptimist International Newtownabbey and District is holding an information evening on Monday, May 13, in Monkstown Village Centre at 7.30pm.

There will be a number of guest speakers on the evening including the Northern Ireland regional president.

Refreshments will be available and anyone interested in attending will be more than welcome to come along on the night.

For more information go to www.sigbi.org, or call Margaret on 9086 8778 or 9050 6696.