Soroptimist member Blanca Pena was recently featured in the Flamborough Review:
When Blanca Pena learned that a group of local nurses was going on a medical mission to Kenya this spring, she couldn’t wait to sign on as a volunteer.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for all my life,” said the owner of Blanca’s Aesthetics on Mill Street South. Although she isn’t a nurse, she has considerable experience in the medical field, having volunteered for five years on the surgical ward of a hospital in her native Colombia. Pena, who noted she has doctors in her family, said she once had aspirations to be a doctor but “never had a chance.” But her volunteer work included taking blood from patients and handing instruments to doctors during surgery.
“I’m not attracted to building schools; I wanted to do something in the medical field,” she said during a recent interview.
Registered Nurse Gail Wolters (left) and Blanca Pena show off the gift basket that donors to Nurses For Africa have a chance to win. Photo by Dianne Cornish, Review
When she met longtime R.N. Gail Wolters of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington at a fundraiser last year, she was told about Nurses For Africa, a grassroots group of Canadian nurses partnering with nurses in Kenya in order to provide medical care to those in need. Wolters, who founded the organization about three years ago, said she and seven other nurses traveled to the Kakamega region in western Kenya last May to provide medical care to those living in extreme poverty.
“We saved lives, no question,” Wolters said of the trip during which clinics were set up in schools, churches and open fields. Kenyans in need of medical aid walked for many miles and stood in long lineups to see the nurses, who tended to a variety of ailments including malaria, upper respiratory illnesses, typhoid and parasitic diseases. Wolters estimated the team treated about 2,500 people during their seven-day visit.
About $12,000 was raised to purchase medical supplies and medications for the inaugural trip. Some of the donations were used to pay hospital fees for the critically ill who came to the field mission.
This year, members of the mission group want to raise about $20,000 to broaden the scope of their work. Besides purchasing medications, dressing supplies, stethoscopes and portable blood pressure cuffs, they want to provide sexual health education to help in the fight against HIV and they want to see and treat more people. “We hope to have more financial resources to treat people, especially the infants,” said Wolters.
A number of fundraisers, including a concert, dinner/ dance, silent auction and jewellery party, have already been held for the upcoming mission that will run from April 30 to May 12. But Pena, who will help out by registering patients, packaging medication and taking vital signs of those attending the clinic, has come up with another money-making venture.
With the help of Sandy Gray, co-owner of Weeks Home Hardware, Pena is offering a “Wine and Dine” gift basket valued at $200 to those who make a donation to Nurses For Africa. Everyone who makes a donation has a chance to win the basket, which contains four crystal wine glasses, a wine decanter, two bottles of fine wine, two chocolate bars, and gift certificates for The Keg, Royal Coachman and Turtle Jacks. The draw will be held Saturday, April 24.
Gray donated about 70 per cent of the basket’s contents, said Pena. She also donated a Kenyan flag to help with additional fundraising for the nurses’ group.
Donations can be dropped off at Pena’s aesthetics salon or Weeks Home Hardware on Hamilton Street North. For more information about the mission group, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-335-2157.
We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to Joan Sturch and Dian Kuzyk. They joined us this last month at the Dutch Mill & Country Market to share their adventures on the Friendship Grant in Australia. We were dazzled and amazed by the beauty of the countryside and the generosity of their guides.
Dian Kuzyk and I travelled to the Soroptimist Region of South Queensland, Australia part of Federation of Soroptimimst International of the Southwest Pacific. Our “Grant of Friendship” saw us spend three weeks in Australia, being home hosted by members of the following clubs: SI Brisbane South, SI Beenleigh, SI Toowoomba, SI Gold Coast, SI Bayside, SI Pine Rivers, SI Logan, SI Brisbane North.
We spent three or four days at each club and were toured around to various historic, cultural and natural sites. Some of the places visited and activities done: Brisbane Botanic Gardens; Mount Tamborine (scenic lookout), Rocky Point Mill – sugar cane operation; Toowoomba Festival of Flowers; Lamington National Park in the Green Mountains (nature walk); North Stradbroke Island for swimming and a “barby”; Brisbane Art Gallery; Brisbane Symphony Orchestra performance; Brisbane city tour; Australia Zoo; John Oxley Reserve nature walk and Osprey House visit, to name just a few!
We were kept very busy and were entertained so well that Dian and I started to call ourselves the “Queens of Queensland!” Our Soroptimist host clubs and members were the nicest and most welcoming of anyone you could ever meet.
We were also entertained with potluck dinners and lunches, getting the chance to meet sister Soroptimists. We talked about our Canadian programmes and they shared theirs with us. The conclusion is that even though we are a “world apart” geographically, we are so much the same, as women. Our goals are the same as sister Soroptimists too; helping to improve the lives of women and girls! – Joan Sturch
sleepy koala at the Australia Zoo
Brsibane Botanic Gardens
Thank you also to Sandy and her daughter Erin, who made Valentines earrings ($4-5 per pair). All proceeds from sales will be split between the Flamborough Women’s Resource Centre and our club! Great gift not only for yourself but your special friends, family or deserving co-workers! View more online »
To honour the women of our club on International Women’s Day, recognized annually on March 8th, at the last meeting each of our members was given a red carnation by Vice-President Shirley, after being grilled on a “did you know” cross-word about the rich history of this day. Here’s an excerpt about how it started:
100 years ago, a woman named Clara Zetkin had a dream. She was the leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, and she was bothered by the lack of rights for women both in her country and around the world. At that time, women in most countries did not have the right to vote. Clara was one of many women around the world working to change that.
Clara’s dream was that in every year in every country around the world there should be a celebration on the same day—a women’s day. It would be a day when women would gather together and advocate for their rights. She pitched her idea at the second International Conference of Working Women being held in Copenhagen, Denmark that year. And her suggestion was met with unanimous approval.
One year later, Clara helped organize the first International Women’s Day. Its success exceeded all expectations—and 100 years later, we continue to celebrate it each year on March 8. Read more on President Kathy’s blog »
This past Friday, a celebration of International Womens Day was held at McMaster University in the Student Centre atrium. This one day event was organised by female students and Soroptimist member Pauline was one of two local artists asked to display work. The day included a yoga display, a demonstration of modern dance and several singing artists. The students also had table for donations to the YWCA which also displayed some of their many programs and projects.
How are you celebrating this year?