After three years at the helm of Wiltshire Federation of WIs Lesley Holdway has stepped down as chair, passing on to her successor (that would be me!) a Federation on a stronger legal footing (as a CIO), with greatly improved IT infrastructure and a great team of trustees. At our meeting on 31st October 2022 we had the opportunity to thank Lesley for all her hard work and wisdom over those three years. 2019 - 2020 was the perfect time for Lesley to become Chairman of our Federation. She has always been passionate about technology and when we went into lockdown, Lesley was determined to give us the skills to "go virtual." With the help of other WI colleagues, she set up Zoom training sessions for the WIs, our Team and Trustee meetings became virtual and we were able to maintain contact with each other. Without missing a heartbeat, the Wiltshire Federation “Kept Calm, and Carried On.” Lesley was one of the first Chairmen to hold a virtual Annual meeting, and inviting Melissa Green (NFWI General Secretary) was a great coup.
Even before the pandemic, Lesley ran courses for members to help them get to know their iPads. She also set up weekly quiz nights on Zoom enabling people to keep in touch and support each other. As most of you know, she continues to run these quiz nights and to support others, providing Office 365 training and generally helping people with that pesky thing “technology.” Luckily for me, Lesley has agreed to stay on the Board of Trustees and help me and the rest of the Board guide Wiltshire Federation forward. This is just another demonstration of her genuine love and unfailing enthusiasm for the WI.
I am hugely honoured to be asked to take on this role for an organisation that I cherish. My experience of the WI started when I was rather small and my mother (who was President of a WI in Berkshire) took me to meetings (I suspect she could not get a babysitter!). So, I have been singing Jerusalem for quite a long time. Having said that, I only became a WI member in 2020 (the month before lockdown) and my WI, Ellendune were very welcoming and supportive during those strange times. I responded to an item in a WI newsletter saying that the Wiltshire Federation would have to close if more trustees did not come forward and was also welcomed warmly onto the board of trustees (with three other new trustees).
I plan to build on Lesley’s work and echo Anne Jones (NFWI Chair) who recently talked about the leadership team being custodians of the WI, aiming to pass on a strong organisation for future generations. I would also like to help Wiltshire Federation make a positive difference for women, by building on the decades of WI campaigning. These goals, however, are of no value if they do not represent what you, our members want from your organisation. I would really like to hear from you about what you value about your WI, what you would like to change and what you want to get out of it. Please get in touch via email@example.com with the subject “Feedback” in your email. I do hope that one of the things you all want from the WI is FUN … life is too short not to spend our time in ways which we enjoy. If that’s not what we are delivering I trust you will let us know.
- Submitted by Gill Gibson-Piggot, Chair WFWI