President’s Message April 2021

Dear Ladies

Women are renowned for our adaptability and it’s interesting how quickly we have become accustomed to events on Zoom. Like so many others I have had a busy time on zoom this month but I look forward for the time when, with a simple phone call, I can arrange to meet with friends at a restaurant or to attend a function in person. Fortunately, we are not too far away from that with the new rules of engagement. With so many more people vaccinated and the prospect of good weather, I’m feeling optimistic. 

On International Womens Day (IWD) I attended a Zoom event hosted by Women’s Clubs International (WCI)  ‘Women Diversity and Peace’. We welcomed Linda Anderson the new WCI President (2021-2023). The two expert and very impressive speakers were Dr. Nicola Byok; Diversity Strategist, Hamburg Germany and Danielle Robertson; Program Officer The US Institute of Peace. 

On 9th March the Australian Women’s Club ‘Room to Read’ was hosted by President Belinda Miles and  presented by Jenny Orchard, a remarkable woman who was Development Director for Australasia in 2010. As a global, non profit, organisation focusing on literature and girls education, its aim is to improve literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Headquartered in San Francisco it is founded on the belief that “world change starts with educated children,” and now reaches more than six million children serving communities in ten countries in Asia and Africa. ‘Room to Read’ develops literacy skills and the habit of reading among primary school children, and supports girls in completing secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. (Contact me for the list of books that were Jenny’s five favourites). 

On 20th March the Ukrainian Cultural Association (UCA) held a very enjoyable Music & Poetry event dedicated to the famous Ukrainian Poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). Shevchenko was one of those rare people who have a huge influence on their society, in his case as a writer, artist, public and political figure. He is known for many masterpieces as a painter and an illustrator. He also had a strong influence on leading his country to independence. The music and poetry was both poignant and stirring reflecting both the tensions and the beauty of 19thc Ukraine.

On 22nd March there was a celebration of National Day of the Republic of Tunisia, held on Zoom at the Tunisian Embassy London. Ambassador Nabil Ben Khedher introduced the speakers, many of whom had served in Tunisia and have great affection for the country and their people. Memories were shared, there was traditional music and dancing and many compliments exchanged and finally a lovely film depicting the highlights of this beautiful country. 

On 23rd March I attended ‘Friends of Azerbijan’ to celebrate Nowruz. The event held online at the London Embassy was very enjoyable. Ambassador Tahir Taghizade welcomed everyone and many speeches were made by various ministers regarding mutual interests in culture and trade between our two countries. There was a wonderful display of Azerbaijani culture with music, singing, architecture, food, and national dress and a tour of the cities and surrounding areas, beautifully presented on video. 

Last October we had the privilege of having Alexandra Asseily as our speaker on ‘The Garden of Forgiveness’, her ongoing project in the city of Beirut. You may remember the catastrophic explosion of ammonium nitrate in August 2020 in the port of Beirut which caused widespread devastation, leaving 300,000 people homeless. FIWAL raised money for Alfanar’s rescue project (chosen by Alexandra). We have had a progress update from Alfanar’s Development Officer Freddie Fleischmann-Allen, sent to our Hon. Treasurer Sylvia Wallach. The news is heartening: 

Emergency Lebanon Report Highlights: Thanks to your support (and over 300 remarkable donors like you) we raised over £770,000 to help front-line social enterprises working to alleviate hunger, clear debris, and repair damaged buildings across Beirut. Through our food sector social enterprises — Lebanese Food Bank, ShareQ, Soufra, and Souk el Tayeb — we have distributed 51,227 hot meals, 1,770 dry food boxes (each of which feeds a family of five for one month), and created 42 jobs as kitchen staff or distribution workers. Through our social enterprise partner BEDCO by March, we have repaired and renovated 30 offices, shops and homes damaged by the blast, helping businesses and social enterprises to get back to work, as well as creating 35 jobs for disadvantaged youth as construction workers. Our country team on the ground has been at hand to provide additional management support to our 10 portfolio social enterprises, helping them to navigate the crisis.

To mark the launch of Spring campaign Join the Journey: Educate. Employ. Empower. three of Alfanar’s frontline social enterprises will join us to share their stories of resilience and impact from the past year. We would love to have you with us -you can register for the event here: of you have already registered and I look forward to seeing you at this event.

I wish you a safe and glorious Spring.

Warm Regards, 

Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips

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