Soroptimist Eastern Canada Region

Uber condensed Spring Conference, down from 2 days to 4 hours! There were changes to the by-laws and announcements about membership with the loss of Simcoe County and potential charter of Kawartha Lakes, but the morning highlight was the Soroptimist Foundation of Canada winner. Blanca Haydee Lopez de Brizuela, M.A. in Legal Studies. Her bio is listed below and her story of passion for lead to a standing ovation from the whole room. She was presented with a $7,500 cheque to help her continue her studies as a candidate for Juris Doctor (LLB) at the University of Ottawa.

We had an interesting talk on mentoring young women through S-Club or Sigma Societies as a club program (posted separately) and were then joined by Governor Coleen Schmidt and Western Canada Region to hear Pat Donohue, President-Elect of Soroptimist International of the Americas, speak on Embracing Change. She cited leaders Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat, and Violet Richardson Ward, who quit her job three times on the basis of not getting paid equally as men who worked in the same position, as leaders of change.

“In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change–breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”
– Susan Taylor

What’s Working? How can we do more of it? The Renaissance Campaign (Program | Public Awareness | Fundraising | Membership) has fostered cohesion and clarity with focus on women and girls, but more needs to be done. It will be extended for another year. Clubs are being asked to do the following two ac tions across the four areas:

  • Hold at least one recruitment event per year. Conduct the annual club assessment.
  • Participate in the Live Your Dream Campaign. Undertake media correspondence.
  • Donate 10% of club fundraising to SIA. Report the amounts you contribute to local projects
  • Focus on programs that benefit women and girls. Give out a Women’s Opportunity Award.

Pat’s presentation cited our own Dorothy Huhtalo from Humber-Credit Valley dreamed of retiring to her cottage in Kawartha Lakes. She and her husband are now Living their Dream and is spearheading the charter of a new club. “My experience helped me see that change is a good thing. We need to look for it and expect it each day.” We must be that change.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead

May 4-6 in the next Spring Conference: Dirty Thirties and Roaring Twenties in Haldimand Norfolk for the Jubilee Anniversary

Announcement from SIA: it is rare that clubs are impacted by the SI Board. Governance, Oversight and Strategy issues came to fruition this year across the four Federations. There is further discussion to be had.

After the lunch we were delighted to take home three of the four Federation awards for Celebrating Success: Program, Fundraising and Public Relations.

Grants for Women
Blanca Haydee Lopez de Brizuela is a lawyer and a former judge from El Salvador, Blanca completed a Master in Legal Studies at Carleton University. Her research “En-gender-ing Gender Sensitive Decisions: A Challenge for Decision –makers” draws on the issue of the impact of gender discrimination and domestic violence in refugee cases.

Two things are the cornerstones in Blanca’s life: her family and her commitment to social justice for the advancement of women. Blanca is a mother of six sons. She and her family came to Canada seeking protection ten years ago. As a single mother and as a refugee, Blanca knows the struggles women face in order to survive. One good thing about being a survivor has been the development of a deep understanding of other people’s pain. Her experiences have taught her to combine work with compassion and how to balance family and professional life. She believes, without a doubt, that her personal history has shaped the path in her career.

Outside academia, Blanca has had invaluable work experience supporting women. For more than five years Blanca has facilitated an art and sharing discussion group for refugee women. Impressed by the courage of these women and the power of art as a tool of healing, Blanca and her co-workers at SASC were inspired to give voice to women’s experiences. “Our Unspoken Stories: The Stories of Butterflies” is a book that Blanca has co-authored with the Women and War program coordinator at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC). Some of the stories will be featured at the Women’s World 2011 conference ( in Ottawa. In her capacity as the Women of Colour Outreach Coordinator, for SASC, Blanca has supported women survivors of violence, rape, torture and trauma. She also worked as a settlement counselor for Catholic Immigration Centre and volunteered with the Community Legal Clinics in Ottawa, helping women in their immigration and settlement processes. Her choice of pursuing a law degree in Canada was the result of those experiences.

After living in Canada for a number of years, Blanca realized that having a law degree and work experience from her country was not enough to work as effectively as she wanted for the advancement of women. She believes that being accredited here as a lawyer would be the best way for her to work for women’s equality and access to justice. Upon completion of her law degree Blanca wants to provide legal services from a gender perspective to one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed groups in society: immigrant and refugee women. Blanca’s goal is to work in Immigration and Family Law. Not only is her dream to work for and with marginalized women in need of legal services but also to support them to feel empowered and in control of their lives.

Posted in SI News.