So much is happening in West Kent Federation over the summer. As well as our major Centenary days, sub-committees have organised many other events for members to attend.
I am so grateful to the hardworking ladies who are arranging everything, thus ensuring we have a vibrant and active Federation we can be proud to be a part of.
I would also like to take this opportunity to put on the record the deep gratitude of all the Board of Trustees to our marvellous office staff at Ethel Hunt Lodge. We owe them an immense debt for all that they do, particularly over recent months as we have sought a replacement secretary. Always willing and cheerful, we would be lost without them.
Membership of the WI can be very important in people's lives. I have recently read a remarkable book by Tessa Dunlop entitled the Century Girls. The final word from the women who've lived the past hundred years of British history. Two of the women featured speak of the amazing role membership of the WI has played in their lives; teaching them new skills and inspiring confidence. But the WI can only continue such a role if members continue to step forward to serve on their WI committee and thus keep them running. May is the month when all WIs in West Kent elect their committee for the forthcoming year. New members are always hoped for so if you haven't already served why not step forward this time. As it was for the two ladies featured in Tessa Dunlop's book it could be the start of a new chapter in your life.
We are certainly very fortunate on the Board of Trustees to have three new members come and join us. Whilst sad to say goodbye to Gill Bowden and Sheila Fitzgerald we are delighted to welcome Gill Brown, Sarah Sudlow and Paula Bates to our ranks. I would also like to say a big thank you to Gill Neville for stepping forward to take on the role of Federation Treasurer.
In such a busy and momentous year for the Federation it is excellent to have so much support.
The ACM always provides a wonderful opportunity to meet up with old friends, meet some new ones and to pass on news. There was certainly lots of news for the federation to relate including all about the amazing events taking place to mark our centenary.
We also spoke of some recent changes in personnel. Samantha Milns, one of our two federation secretaries who has worked at Ethel Hunt Lodge since 2007, decided to move on in March, and Sue Hollings, joint editor of the West Kent News, decided to stand down from the role although is still continuing to be one of our hardworking advisers. Gill Bowden who has served a federation treasurer for six years decided to stand down both from this role and from being a trustee, and likewise Sheila Fitzgerald. Everyone has contributed so much to the life of West Kent and we are sad to see them go and very grateful for all they have done, but fortunately three new members have come forward to serve as trustees. We are delighted that Gill Brown, Sarah Sudlow and Paul Bates have come to join us.
The federation is only kept alive by members coming forward to serve in it on both large and small ways. There are always vacancies to be filled and we would be delighted to hear from anyone interested I coming to observe at either one of our sub-committee meetings or at Board of Trustees to find out what goes on and if it might be for them. Do get in touch, we would love to hear from you.
With the start of March life at Ethel Hunt Lodge has suddenly accelerated as we head towards our first major event of the year, the ACM at Tunbridge Wells. I'm really looking forward to hearing our two speakers Floella Benjamin and Hilary Howarth, as well as seeing so many of you. I trust you too will enjoy the opportunity to visit the stalls and stands, learn about our future plans and events, enjoy the singing, meet up with some old friends and perhaps make some new ones.
The Board will be using the meeting to advertise our idea of how to cut back on the amount of non-recyclable waste that we create. Currently larger events such as federation days mean we have to use paper cups as sheer volume of numbers renders the use of china impossible. At present we do not know of any paper cups that are both suitable for hot liquid and fully recyclable, so our proposal is that if possible members bring their own drinking containers which we can then serve their tea or coffee in. We will of course still have paper cups available for those who haven't brought their own, but it would be great to try and reduce the number we finally have to put in the non recycling bin.
Finally, if anyone knows of a suitable fully recyclable cup that we can use the please contact us at Ethel Hunt Lodge.
As a keen gardener by the start of February I always begin looking forward to my garden coming back to life after the winter months. Within the WI after the Christmas celebrations in their various forms, January can often seem rather long and dreary especially if the weather does its worst, and I know a number of WIs choose not to meet at all. Now, as with my garden, come February there are once again things to look forward to, and increasing signs of activity within both the Federation and the Institutes.
As you will see, over the coming months not only are there many popular events on the calendar for 2018 such as the annual Art & Craft and Home Economics days, but also all the exciting centenary celebrations as well. We are also offering sessions on finding out about new ways of communicating within your own WI, how to advertise it to the wider community such as by setting up a website and how to go about doing this. There are also going to be meetings to learn more about the resolutions which are chosen to go forward to the Annual Meeting at Cardiff in June, and to find out about what is required of those who have agreed to act as delegates.
Hopefully as you read this letter you too will be feeling spring is on the way and that there is a lot to look forward to as a WI member.
Welcome to 2018 and a momentous year for West Kent Federation. April 15 1918 saw the formation of the then named West Kent County Federation in Maidstone with representatives of the nine institutes meeting with Mrs Madge Watt, one of the founders of NFWI. I wonder if those ladies could have imagined how big the Federation would become and that it would still be going strong 100 years later?
Watching the news there is often little to cheer us up, so let us wholeheartedly embrace this milestone in our WIs history. Many people are working extremely hard to ensure some fantastic events for you to attend, and hopefully within your own WI there will be something happening to mark the centenary as well.
We should also be aware that it is not just a big year for the Federation, but also for a number of our WIs who are also reaching the 100th anniversary of their opening.
A lot of reasons then for West Kent members to celebrate so make sure you read your West Kent News or the Federation website for information on all that is going on, and thus ensure you don't miss out on the fun.
December already. I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by. West Kent Federation has certainly had a busy twelve months as we seek to update our systems and to better provide what you, the members, want. Thanks to the hardworking sub-committee members who arrange a wide variety of events.
The results of the West Kent questionnaire filled by so many WIs have provided the Board of Trustees with much to think about. The increasing spread in terms of locations and ages is undoubtedly throwing up new challenges, but is equally showing how relevant the WI continues to be for so many women. Now with our thoughts also on 2018 and the West Kent Centenary, I and the rest of the Board of Trustees look forward to continuing in our aim to ensure there is a WI for everyone.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful Christmas
November already and as you can see from our front cover we are firmly focused at Ethel Hunt Lodge on events in 2018. I hope as many of you as possible will come to Tunbridge Wells in March to the ACM to hear Floella Benjamin and Hilary Howarth. Floella is a joyous and inspirational speaker who I heard speak in her role as Chancellor of Exeter University, and has achieved in many different fields. Known to many for her television work, she is also a Life Peer, set up her own highly successful television production company, has spent the last 25 years campaigning on behalf of children and recently started "Touching Success" which aims to give young people the chance to meet role models who have achieved success in their chosen fields.
Hilary Howarth, new to the NFWI Board of Trustees this year, also impressed those of us who heard her at the Annual Meeting in Liverpool when she proposed the resolution on Plastic Soup. It will be great to have a first hand update on this resolution and also on the work of the NFWI.
Finally all the events for our centenary celebrations are in place and I want to record my thanks to all those who are voluntarily giving their time to serve on the organising committees. There are so many exciting things planned for 2018 concluding with ever popular 'Carols' which is going to be at All Saints in Maidstone on December 2018. A wonderful church with lots of space, it seems very appropriate to conclude our centenary year in Maidstone where our Federation was first established.
Walking on the beautiful beaches of Wales, during our summer holiday, one couldn't help noticing the amount of plastic the tide washes up. Likewise, when unpacking my shopping I never cease to be appalled at the amount of unnecessary plastic packaging that one gets.
One of the NFWI's two resolutions this year concerns "Plastic Soup", the microplastic fibres shed from synthetic clothing with every wash, and forming the main contributor to microplastic contamination of the oceans. I read recently that a second huge plastic rubbish dump that covers 400,000 square miles - four times the area of Britain, has recently been identified in the Pacific Ocean, a scary thought indeed.
However, I take heart from an article that appeared in The Times Newspaper on 9th June. Headlined "WI to rescue seas polluted by plastic" it noted that our past campaign have included equal pay for women and an anti-litter campaign that resulted in the 1958 Litter Act.
The Wi has an impressive track record on making a difference with it's campaigns and I hope that will be the case this time as well, because it is an issue that is going to increasingly affect all our lives. Let us all read the information issued by NFWI on this resolution and find out ways by which we can help make a difference too.
Exciting times at Ethel Hunt Lodge as we can now contact all WIs electronically. The new computer system is finally up and running and although the broadband speed is far from ideal, we will be seeking to do as much as possible via email. However all those WIs still prefer paper will continue to be catered for as I promised at the ACM in March.
This autumn will also see the installation of a new accounting system for the Federation, investigation of a new system for ordering tickets for events, digital training for those who are interested and finalising the plans for the Centenary celebrations of next year, so lots going on !
I am also delighted to announce a new member of the archivists team. Sheila Harris of Matfield WI is going to be working alongside Chris Klempau and Ann France. Sheila has a long association with the WI being the daughter of Anne Harris, a former National Chairman and still, we are delighted to say, a member of the WI. Some of you I know enjoyed meeting Anne when she and Sheila joined us on the trip to the Annual Meeting at Liverpool in June.
Finally, a very big thank you to all those WIs who filled in the questionnaire the Trustees sent out at the end of April. To date 114 have been received at the office, a marvellous 63% of our WIs. We will be publishing the results and telling you how we plan to respond to the issues raised in October.
Attending the Annual Meeting at Liverpool in June with 63 West Kent members was a lot of fun and was a wonderful opportunity to meet people and exchange ideas. We also debated the two resolutions both of which were passed, one on the scourge of Plastic Soup and the other on the issue of loneliness, something that sadly affects so many people including WI members.
On your forms answering the question 'what does the WI mean to you?' many people have said friendship. This is certainly true for me too, but while a lot of us also have a strong network of family and friends as well, not every member is in such a fortunate position. As was correctly stated in the discussion about loneliness at Liverpool you can be lonely in a room full of people, not just when you are on your own. I do hope all institutes aim to ensure that all their members feel welcome and part of the meeting. In August when not all institutes have a meeting it is important that those living on their own are not forgotten. I have heard of one WI that holds a monthly Sunday lunch having learnt that members living alone said weekends were often the hardest times. As WI members we are well placed to play a role in supporting others. I very much hope we will all rise to the challenge in whatever way we can.
The year seems to be passing by so quickly probably because there is so much going on at present within the Federation. Plans are proceeding apace for all the Centenary celebrations being held next year, with all the organising committees (we have a separate one for each major event) starting to look for more helpers, so please get in touch with the office if you are interested in getting involved. In addition, as you will see from the calendar in West Kent News, the sun-committees are organising a wide range of activities and events for you to attend this year all of which will be advertised in the West Kent News and on our Facebook page.
At Ethel Hunt Lodge builders have been improving the access to the loft space so that we can more easily make use of this badly needed storage. Also, the installation of the new computer system is ensuring that communication both within the office itself and with the institutes will become easier in the future.
Finally, I know you have been bombarded by talk of the General Election for what seems like months and may well be fed up with all such talk, but closer to home don't forget to submit nominations for the Federation Board of Trustees to serve from March 2018.
P.S. - If anyone knows of a sign writer who could update the 'Role of Honour' boards in Ethel Hunt Lodge please contact the Federation office.
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