MAUREEN Maguire has made her mark over the past year as Great Britain and Ireland President of Soroptimists International (SI).
A member of Lurgan Soroptomists for the past three years, Maureen moved to the Lurgan branch when her home town branch in Portadown closed.
She has been proud to represent both towns in addition to the rest of the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries on her travels over the past year, during which she clocked up thousands of miles visiting venues as diverse as the United Nations in New York, African countries like Gambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, as well as far flung places like New Zealand, Nepal and Mauritius.
Great Britain and Ireland is one of four SI Federations that cover 127 countries throughout the world.
Maureen Maguire’s year in office ended back home in Northern Ireland on Saturday night, when she handed over to Edinburgh woman Pat Black. The hand-over was at the new Titanic Building, ending the three-day annual conference which showed over 1,000 members from all over the world the very best of Northern Ireland.
“I have packed more experiences into the past year that a dozen lifetimes,” said Maureen.
“They included meeting the President of Mauritius Sir Anerood Jugnauth, seeing the heart-breaking results of Aids in South Africa - set against the wonderful, care of victims - viewing the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, and visiting all those African countries, with Uganda the worst with crushing poverty that is beyond belief.
“Children from the age of three to 16 are on the streets, in unimaginable conditions. But SI has projects in all these countries, helping with Aids and giving children a chance of education. I am proud to be part of it.”
The conference in NZ was supposed to be in a hotel in Christchurch, but it was flattened in the quake. So they travelled across the Southern Alps to the Shanty Town where 29 miners died in the country’s worst mining disaster in a century and had the conference there. “The Christchurch hotel - like so many building in the city - was devastated, and Chistchurch has a massive job ahead,” she said.
Maureen, a retired senior manager within the health service who is working as a part-time consultant, thrived on the hectic, busy schedule over the year, and ended it by hosting over 1,000 delegates from all over the world, showcasing her beloved Northern Ireland.
It was the 78th Federation Conference of Soroptimists International GB and Ireland and started with a packed event at Belfast’s Waterfront, with delegates from all over the widespread area including the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, the Seychelles. And to give it a local flavour, she especially invited Portadown Male Voice Choir to boast of the talent in County Armagh.
On Friday, they had an Irish Day in the Europa Hotel, which included comedy with Tim McGarry and Irish dancing, and the final hand-over to the new president - the change of insignia - took place in the Titanic Building on Saturday when speakers included Naomi Long MP, Teresa Doherty, the Bangor woman who is Europe’s first international judge, and a plethora of guests which was a virtual who’s who of women around the world.
“It was a tremendous experience all round and a year I’ll never forget,” said Maureen. “It was humbling, and a wonderful education, meeting so many people around the world. The Soroptimists is a wonderful organisation. And I have to say that, in the federation conference, we created over 5,000 ‘bed nights’ in Belfast hotels, so that can’t be bad for the economy and the image of Northern Ireland.”