Good afternoon ladies, Nigel and James! Firstly, it is my great pleasure and honor to welcome you all to the UK Women’s Club 50th Anniversary Celebratory lunch at the Residence of the High Commissioner.
Special thanks to the High Commissioner, Mr. Tim Stew, himself for allowing us to use his beautiful home for this auspicious occasion and to Mrs. Caroline Alcock the Deputy High Commissioner for attending today.
At this time, I would also personally like to thank Cheryl Noreiga, Tims PA, who is sadly leaving at the end of this month. Cheryl has helped the club a lot over the last 8 years and especially in the time I have been your President and she has guided me and helped me to avoid many faux pas, and she has also been instrumental in helping with the planning for today so good luck Cheryl you will be sorely missed. To Paula Radix-Sampson the Events Manager at the Residence, and Marilyn Sandy, the Chef, for all their efforts that have gone into making today happen.
I would also like to extend my thanks to our Sponsors. To the High Commission for hosting us, to Erika and B&R jewelers for the wine, to Krystal Mawer for the gift bags you will leave today with, to Lorenza for painting the lovely 50th Anniversary coasters that you will take home as a memento of this special day, to Blue Waters for the soft drinks, to Nestle for providing a food hamper, to Massy the beauty hampers, to Rachel Lee Young and James Solomon from Rapso Imaging Limited and for being here as our event photographers and taking some really lovely photos for all of you to purchase and also some that we will be able to put on our Facebook page after this afternoon which will help to promote both the work of the UK Women’s Club and the Club itself. Also to Krystal Mawer Lopinot, Nestle, San Antonio Nurseries, and Ingrid for providing us with lovely door prizes. Ingrid also donated the chocolates and shortbread for the races and quiz and Lucy donated the champagne for the best hat. Last but by no means least I would like to thank Jolene Joy Calvert for the celebratory cake.
Thankyou also go to our entertainment this afternoon, to St Andrews School choir, our renowned Singers, to Ingrid who helped plan the races, and to Andrea Leigh who helped organize the quiz. I really hope I haven’t left anyone out!
Now, like every other speech I have had to produce since I became President in March 2016, I have had to do a bit of research regarding the club’s history. You will probably all be able to tell from looking at me that I wasn’t a member of the club from its inception! I have spent hours poring over the achieves and old newsletters and talking to more established members of the club. To be honest preparing a speech for today has been a daunting task. I wanted to try and do justice to what I have read and what has taken place over the last 50 years, it really is truly remarkable and a testament to many individuals determination.
Founded in March 1967 by a group of enthusiastic ladies the club had 2 very clear objectives, Friendship and Service.
Looking through copies of the old newsletters…. I am bowled over by the enthusiasm and good work that was done by many individuals. For example, in those early heady days, articles to be sold for the Christmas Bazaar were made by the handicraft team for months prior to the event even up to a year in advance.
There were Ideal Home Exhibitions, Balls, Burns Nights, St Andrews evenings and Gourmet food nights. One particularly impressive event recalled to me by Sonia Thompson was an Indonesian Gourmet Night, which was joint venture with the Dutch Community. With the help of two Dutch firms who provided authentic Indonesian ingredients for free and KLM who also flew the ingredients for nothing. Entertainment was provided free of charge in the form of a Wajang group direct from Surinam and a steel band group. Sonia here was in charge of the internal décor, I think large paper flowers are what she described that transformed the Country Club in Maraval into a place in Bali!. 700 invited paying guests and many more on the waiting list to attend, It had over a 100 helpers all members of the UKWC or their spouses. Helpers were asked to make their own sarong for themselves and their spouse….. I am only grateful this was before my husband’s time as I could just see his face now being asked to wear a sarong whilst carrying a tray of drinks! 20,000tt was made on the night, which was a lot in 1978. and the money raised was directed toward the building of St Dominic’s, for orphaned teenage boys, which was a half way house in Belmont. There were also Fashion shows and raffles. and Christmas and New Year’s parties.
Voluntary work done by members of the club included: Working with children at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital helping with swimming and reading at the school for the blind, manning the trolley service at the Port of Spain General Hospital. I even heard from Carol and Sonia about the building of a swimming pool by spouses and members for the blind children!
There were also large mass events for the disadvantaged, a Firework Display for many under privileged children, which took 18 months to organize largely due to the amount of red tape involved to try and coordinate the order and delivery of fireworks by boat over from the UK, not to mention how long it subsequently took to get a permit to drive explosives through town then find the appropriate security to protect for the safety of those observers and transport of kids from rural areas.
In those days there were multiple outings too. Turtle Watching, Asa Wright, Maracas picnics, Point-a-Pierre. Temple on the Sea and numerous factory visits
There were multiple clubs within the club too, handicraft, bridge, darts, tennis, choir and welcoming coffees, welcoming rum punch evenings, teenage BBQs.
Suzette also fondly remembered the car rally’s, organized by Isha Ali. Suzette, Sonia and Carol were all noted as participants. I can just imagine the atmosphere in the cars as they sped round Trinidad with their printed maps and clues! I would have loved to be an observer in any of their cars!
If you wanted to you could practically do something every day of the week. What I felt reading those volumes was the sense of community and the sense of comradery. It really was a case of the good old days!
In those early years and at the peak of the clubs popularity there were over 300 members and up to 130 individuals at every meeting that was held at the Hilton in either the ballroom or Scarlet Ibis Room. For those of you that are interested I have bought some of those achieved and bound copies of the newsletter today. They do make very entertaining reading and it gave me a lot of insight into the club in the early days after it was founded.
Over the years the Club has had 38 Presidents, 4 of whom are here today…. Carol Mcllwaine 4 times, Linda Hayton 3 times, and Erika Mouttet twice and not forgetting the lovely Rachel Lee Young who did her own time as President before becoming the Club’s photographer. At the height of its popularity it would have the same committee members that make up the Committee meetings today but each of those Committee members would have further sub-committee meetings for social, fund-raising and welfare. Only the welfare sub-committee remains in existence and meets regularly today. Talking to Lorenza who has held many positions over the years, at one point she was welcoming chair-person and had 8 others who served with her on the welcoming committee. Each person would present a sweet or savory dish, the name of which was supplied in advance to ensure no duplication occurred! Such precision planning and attention to detail. It will have been what the club was all about and what made it stand it stand out from the rest.
It would be almost impossible to single out any one individual to thank them for their years of service. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working alongside 2 committees and I all I can say is that is takes a lot of work and dedication and I would like to thank each and every one of you that has ever held a position on the Committee. Your hard work is much appreciated. not to mention the 4,500,000tt that has been raised for the good causes of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Newsletter was started in July 1967 each and every copy ever produced has been kept and the majority up until 2007 are bound and kept in the achieves, Mora Hutton was the Club’s editor for 20 years, having been secretary for the club for the 3 preceding years. There are many others too numerous to mention but when I spoke to a few of our long-standing members another couple worthy of a mention here are Liane Kalyaniwala who manned the library for many years but left last month so is unable to celebrate with us, and Valerie Seecharan who was President for 2 consecutive years and held many other positions too, but who is sadly too unwell to attend our celebrations today.
I do think it is fantastic we are here today celebrating the Clubs 50th Anniversary. It is testament to all the hard work over the years that it is continuing although I think we will all agree the club looks very different today to the one that was set up 50 years ago. The challenge moving forward is attracting new members whilst making sure we meet the needs of the older stalwarts of the club that will continue to be a part of it long after the x-pats have left. It is fair to say that the x-pats are currently a dying breed so the challenge ahead I think is perhaps how we morph into a club that survives despite the depleted numbers.
Personally, I think the Club is as important today as it was 50 years ago. Ex-pats still arrive, some with smaller companies, and even the larger oil companies, no longer use the relocation companies they used to use to, to ensure individuals settle into a new country quickly and easily. We can and should be those individuals first ports of call. We can offer them friendship and support.
And if we look at our other remit, our offer of service. Today in 2017 Trinidad is in the midst of a recession. There simply isn’t the money available from the Government or individuals to help the under privileged and self-funding charities in Trinidad and Tobago. Over the Clubs 50 years the UKWC has raised over 4,500,000tt, now more than ever what we raise can and does make a huge difference.