WORKSHOP: CASE STUDY - Volunteers key to landmine project

ANNIE KELLY

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Background Soroptimist International was launched in 1921 as a global voluntary organisation to promote the rights and status of women all over the world. The organisation is made up of four federations in the UK and Ireland, Europe, the Americas and the South West Pacific, and runs classified service clubs across 123 countries and territories. The 93,000 Soroptimists in the membership network are all professional women of all ages and backgrounds, who work with charities on a range of humanitarian issues.

Aims In addition to ongoing projects and programmes, Soroptimist International chooses one major international project to support every four years. The society had previously donated funds towards clearing minefields in Laos and Angola, and wanted to help victims of landmines. In 1997 launched a Limbs for Life campaign with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The campaign aimed to raise around £350,000 to help victims of landmines become mobile again and reintegrate into their communities. Soroptimist International wanted to use its worldwide network of members and their local communities to raise awareness of the issue and raise funds to be donated straight to the landmine victims through the ICRC.

"The fact that all funds raised are not used for any administration costs was a key factor in our decision to launch the project,

said Helen Van Themsche, Limbs for Life liaison officer at Soroptimist International.

How it worked - The campaign is co-ordinated by a liaison officer based in Europe, who provides a central point of contact across all regions.

Fundraising is carried out by the Soroptimist members on a voluntary basis.

More than 3,000 clubs around the world launched their own initiatives and ran campaigns in their communities.

UK fundraising events included a Mini Highland Games in Scotland organised by a SI club of 22 women who worked with local school children to increase their understanding of the issue and raise funds for the campaign. Other UK Soroptimist clubs organised a sponsored garden party in a stately home and a sponsored challenge at Alton Towers.

Activity in other countries included music concerts, golf tournaments and exhibitions, and an annual sale of 15,000 Christmas cards in Australia.

Local Soroptimist clubs lobbied MPs and governments directly and also through UN committees to promote implementation of the Ottawa Treaty and the UN Inhumane Weapons Convention.

Results - Since the launch of the campaign in 1999, the organisation has raised more than £600,000 for landmine victims, smashing the target it set for itself.

The money has been spent on supplying artificial limbs for thousands of landmine victims. The network will continue in its work to raise money until the project finishes at the end of 2003.

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