A week ago the Alzheimer Society launched its request for a million Dementia Friends by 2015. This is part of the plan for not only raising awareness of the many facets of the disease, but also to recruit people who are willing to learn what sufferers and carers need and then pass on that knowledge.
The Prime Minister's Dementia Challenge was also heralded at a reception in No 10 Downing Street with the release of the first report from the Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group. Representatives from the many agencies, companies and charities that engage in this field attended the lunch time reception. Honeyed sausages on sticks are great levelers, and while nibbling on such delicacies, conversations ensued between researchers into dementia, the emergency services, the WI, scientists, bankers, insurers, retailers, carers and sufferers. All such people in one place, learning and gaining understanding from each other. The heartfelt desire is that this be replicated across society within villages and towns, shops and offices. I know myself, having had personal experience of the effects of dementia over the last twelve years, just a little understanding goes a long, long, way.
Twenty-four hours after this positive and satisfying gathering, I found myself attending a coffee morning hosted by a WI prior to its third annual meeting in the afternoon. Members of four other local WIs were also present. There was plenty of chat of course, as well as beautifully decorated and delicious cupcakes and biscuits, all homemade, and copious amounts of coffee. Everyone indulged in these goodies! Craft items were also on sale, and I was unable to resist the softest knitted sheep as well as a heart shaped Christmas tree decoration.
There was a short formal interlude where I was asked to say a few words and present the cup to the winner of the first craft competition. The winning item was a card and paper model, with great attention to detail, of the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland. I was very pleased I did not have to choose the winning item since the standard was extremely high in all categories. The entries included a delicately knitted fruit flan, a plate of knitted cakes with a bite taken from one, and an embroidered picture copied from a photograph - only a close look showed which was which.
One member also read out her clever and beautifully incisive piece of creative writing. We even sang Jerusalem, which was equally as uplifting and emotive as when sung in the Albert Hall with 5,000 WI members. The morning's gathering was even more of a positive and satisfying experience than the No 10 Downing Street reception; for this event was hosted by the members of Bronzefield WI, the first Prison WI.
I am so proud of the organisation which at this time I have the privilege to lead. The WI prides itself on being there for every woman; it is what each one wants to make of it and what each wants it to be. The WI is proudly proving its worth in so many places.
And showing what goes on at the national level is the aim of the Open Days held each year at 104 New Kings Road. Two weeks ago, Membership Chair and Vice Chair, Janice Langley and I met over two hundred women who had made the journey from all parts of England and Wales to see what goes on behind the scenes. The Open Days give WI members the chance to see the beautifully formed but small offices, which house the super staff who help to make things happen and give shape and form to the ideas that become actions, projects and campaigns.
And I found myself speaking of our latest campaign earlier this week in Brighton at the conference for the Royal College of Midwives. “More Midwives” is the brief of the mandate given by a 95% majority of members at our AGM in May this year. Between the speaking I was fascinated with some of the stands that I walked around. A number of plastic models of women giving birth brought back a few memories, but the many different pictures of babies once again made me realise why all the pain is worth it.