Eileen Mitchel better known to Soroptimists as “Mitch”. Mitch has been a member of Soroptimist International since 1983 and is a current member of SI Bayside. Mitch has served as a Delegate, Programme Convenor and an Officer at every level of our Federation in most every task except treasurer. Eileen was Federation President between 2004-2006. Eileen is a passionate environmentalist, teacher and past Principal of the Moreton Bay Environmental Education Centre in Brisbane Qld.
Eileen was President of SISWP when the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 struck Banda Aceh.
It was Boxing day 2004 - thought I would just check incoming emails. They came – they scrolled down and down. – They were often in languages I was not able to read – they all contained the word “Tsunami. They all exemplified the “Internationality” of Soroptimist International.
The impacts of tsunami and the resulting projects were to carry over through 2005. Projects in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia initiated by SISWP clubs and disaster fund were supported by donations from across the Soroptimist world. One such project was that initiated by SI Jakarta. They planned to raise $ US 1000 to assist the women in a village in Banda Aceh and finished up rebuilding the whole village including a school and a women’s centre courtesy of the support of Soroptimists across the world. SISWP invited the then International President Lynne Dunning to join the visits to each project and to open the school in Banda Aceh. Some things are etched into my mind – the people and the devastation at each site, the impact of the projects on the people and the people’s strength and optimism through the support they were provided but especially the expression on Lynne’s face when the elephant stole the fruit from her welcome drink in Phuket.
L to R, Isla Winarto, Lynne Dunning, Eileen Mitchell, Ralda Forzin
2004-06 - Mitch's special moments
Every time I wear the shell necklace gifted to me by the women elders of a village in PNG, I am reminded of a community forum on family violence with over 300 participants! This followed a march against violence through the streets of Lae led by Dame Carol Kidu and myself - both having been dressed by the Lae Soroptimists in “Mary Blouses” and shell arm bands and having escaped Dame Carol’s protective police escort. Just prior, I had conducted a workshop on prevention of violence involving health, law enforcement, prisoners and community workers providing conclusions that surprised the participants - that education was the answer, validating the extension of the Federation project “Halt Family Violence” with an outreach program into the villages.
I had the magic of charters in my own Region, Mongolia and PNG but the workshops provided so many opportunities to both listen to and help provide a voice for women. One challenge was facilitating a Roundtable at the SI Meeting in Denver on proposals to change the Soroptimist Emblem another was to act as Soroptimist “Co-chair” at the “Human Trafficking” Ancillary Meeting at the UN Conference on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
What stands out - the many opportunities to both listen to, and help provide a voice for, women in a variety of meetings, workshops and forums on a diverse range of issues.
To finish, "sorry - but cannot escape the quote given to me by another Soroptimist - it doesn’t matter what the question is - the answer is EDUCATION!"