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Never were there such devoted sisters

Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters

(From Irvin Berlin’s ‘Sisters, Sisters’)

Even before I knew the meaning of the word, I had the distinct sense of entering a family gathering when I visited the Reigate Soroptimist meeting in June. My grasp of Latin stops short at Amo, Amas, Amat but club President, Val Brandt, explained that ‘Soror’ means Sister and ‘Optima’ The Best, and Soroptimists are women who seek the best for their ‘sisters’.

Having dined well at The Reigate Manor Hotel, home to their monthly meetings, they welcomed me warmly into their ‘sibling’ group. No rivalry here though – quite the opposite in fact – I could tell at once that these ladies genuinely care for each other as those united not by blood but by their mutual desire to help the cause of women and girls worldwide.

The organisation started in California nearly 100 years ago, and SI Reigate and District was chartered in 1963. There are currently 20 members in this branch, with many thousands worldwide, including representation on the UN. Their aim is to make a difference in the local community by fund raising and service – including staffing a local food bank.

So far this year money has been raised through a plant and produce sale and a cream tea, and their summer barbeque at The Black Horse raised over £900, an amount due in no small way to the ‘Time Well Spent’ management – Marc Jones and Donna Godfrey – who generously offered the venue and food free of charge. The Black Horse will again play host to the Soroptimists at their main charity event of the year – a quiz night on 27th September.

A different cause is chosen annually by the President to be the main beneficiary. For 2016 it is Breast Charitable Funds at East Surrey Hospital and Consultant Breast Surgeon, Shamaela Waheed, and Lead Macmillan Nurse, Liz Darragh, came to talk at the June meeting. Both were impassioned speakers who know firsthand the devastating effect that a breast cancer diagnosis can have – not only on the patient but on their family and friends. Around 300 new cancer patients are seen at the hospital each year, and all staff involved in their care are keen to ensure that they are well supported from the outset, not only medically but also emotionally and practically. Holistic treatments like aromatherapy and reflexology sessions are available through Macmillan, along with financial advice on how to obtain grants, etc. Ms Waheed explained that 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer although less than 5% of cases are genetic in origin. Men too can develop it but it is much rarer. However, the majority of all cancers are sporadic with no known cause.

Reigate Soroptimists have long had an association with the hospital and in fact, helped to fund their very first mammogram unit. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month just weeks away in October whether you’re a Soroptimist or not, it’s an ideal time to support this hospital’s essential work.

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For more information 
Reigate Soroptimists: www.sigbi.org/reigate-and-district
East Surrey Hospital: www.surreyandsussex.nhs.uk

By Sarah Ballingal

 

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