Eindhoven international connections – Soroptimist Club

Previous week was the Soroptimist event ‘Spain in the Golden Age’ at the Studentenkapel in Eindhoven. Eindhoven News went to the event to find out more about the Soroptimist Club Eindhoven and to hear about Spain’s history and famous mystics from the 17th century. Already that we were curious enough about to spend our Sunday afternoon inside a church while the weather outside was beautiful.

The Soroptimists Eindhoven are part of Soroptimist International. IS is a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls. They have around 80,000 club members in 130 countries and territories. They work at a local, national and international level to educate, empower and enable opportunities for women and girls in various countries. Soroptimist International is represented and has consultative status within the UN, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

It is marvelous to see that people in Eindhoven have a long history of being connected to global groups. One we newly heard about is the Soroptimist International Club, Eindhoven Chapter. The Soroptimist Club Eindhoven was founded in 1952. With 27 members aged 29 to 82 years, they are a very diverse and exciting club, represented by a wide range of professional women. Soroptimists are sisters,’Sorores’, that are pursuing the best they can, ‘optimum’. This is also where they are selective; not just anybody can become a member, they are looking for a balanced mix of professional women to make sure the activities they undertake are effective and successful.

Every month the Soropimsts Eindhoven meet on every third Wednesday of the month in the Academic Society in Eindhoven. The meetings are very diverse. The content varies from lectures to discuss the progress of their projects. As a true Brabant club they find the next business contact, friendships and socializing very important. Eindhoven club has friendships with Club Hasselt in Belgium and Club Aalen in Germany.

In the Netherlands there are 100 clubs with 3500 members. They are united in the Union of Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. You can also find other clubs close by in Helmond and Den Bosch for example, many other cities do have their own club.
What makes women choose to become a member of specifically this club as there are more female networks?
As Ingeborg Mijling (former President) explains: "Personally I do find it very nice to be in a women’s network because in my daily job I mostly work with men. To meet other professional women with different backgrounds is very interesting. And being able to give something back to the community is something that is very satisfactory."

One of the ‘giving back’ activities is organizing fund raising events like the one on Sunday. The musical, cultural and philosophical afternoon, typical for Soroptimist Club Eindhoven, was all about Spain. Initiated basically by Nelleke Canters, philosopher, as she has got a keen interest in Spanish philosophers.
There were interesting talks by Anneke Houben-de Jongh, anthropologist, on the cultural history of Spain in the 16th and 17th century. She narrated on how Spain looked like in the time of the mystics and Nelleke Canters, philosopher, was relating from a philosophical perspective about Spanish mysticism, all with a focus on the Golden Age. It was very inspiring to hear about the ‘religious’ points of view of Juan de la Cruz and Teresa of Avila where it appeared those thinkers were ahead of their time in Europe supposing that instead of a God who would be above us all, is inside all of us and everything. And that through humble self-consciousness the love for the other is born. Nice thoughts and fitting more into the spiritual periphery. The other interesting thing we heard was that the ‘below-Rhine’ philosophers where more contemplating from the heart compared to the ‘above-Rhine’ academics who where using more ratio instead.

The intermezzo’s were filled with beautiful and touching Spanish guitar music from Eva Dierickx, Master Student Classical Guitar, Conservatory Tilburg and Ghent. She played a variety of Spanish pieces with different tones to please all ears.

In the end after several charity events organized by the Soroptimist Eindhoven ladies, like the ‘Glow charity walk’, ‘the Nietzsche-Wagner conference’ and the Christmas Presidents dollar auction where every single member donates one dollar to the Dutch Union president’s project and the rest to their own projects, the total amount will be offered to ‘Give A Hand’. A project that aims to provide medical and social care to elderly people who live in total isolation in the Latvian countryside. Soroptimist club Eindhoven raises money to buy a taxi. With this taxi older people can be transported up and down from their isolated farms and brought to the apartment in Zaube for medical care, showering, washing their clothes, shopping and social contacts. They came to know about the project from a sister (this proves the sisterhood works) of one of the Eindhoven members. Soroptimist Club Eindhoven expects to collect €8000.- for this charity. In July Soroptimst Eindhoven will proudly hand over the total amount raised to ‘Give a Hand’ in Latvia, with which the taxi will be purchased.
On a larger scale Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands have joined forces with UNICEF in the project Syria ‘Back to school’ and are gathering money to provide schools and educational resources to Syrian women and girls in refugee camps in Turkey. This schooling will prepare women and girls for employment teaching them technical skills and vocational programmes. Soroptimist Club Eindhoven is donating yearly (from 2014 until 2016) €1000.- .

As Joke van Dijk (President) adds: "as a member of any club, you are automatically a member of all international clubs. Working basically globally at all kinds of women empowerment projects is one of the reasons I chose to join Soroptimist Club Eindhoven. The idealistic character of this club is my main one, furthermore, meeting women of various working fields and using those skills for a good cause is very rewarding too."

To meet all the internationally active ladies there is the SI Convention. This year it will be held in Istanbul, Turkey from 9 -12 July It is much more than a conference. It is a place where women from all over the world come together to give, to share, to learn from each other and to be together in friendship. The theme of the 20th Soroptimist International Convention will be ‘Fresh ideas for empowering women!’ They will reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and imagine their future, generating new initiatives.

Nadia Jellouli (Vice President), our initial contact person and Soroptimist member for fourteen years, joined this group after she was invited for a lecture on her architectural works and liked the vision and mission of the Soroptimsts. She says: "working with Soroptimists from varied backgrounds and perspectives together to improve the lives of women, girls and children through programmes leading to social and economic empowerment and learning from each other’s professions and lives is a great joy". She continues: "helping women and girls to have all the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential and live their dreams is a dream as well. The friendship and solidarity shared between Soroptimists worldwide is a unique experience".

Irene Martens

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