Retired Head Teacher and prominent Soroptimist Mrs Rayner Rees joined our Board on 1st November for a three-year tenure. I have had the great pleasure of working alongside Rayner on our projects for the past five years and am delighted that her passion for empowering girls and women has received this recognition. I invited Rayner to introduce herself:
I was delighted and honoured when Philip asked me to join the board of trustees for Pipal Tree. I have worked closely with Philip and fully support the amazing work that he undertakes in Nepal. I am a proud Soroptimist, a charity whose aims are 'to improve the lives of women and girls locally, national and internationally' which fits in beautifully with the work that Lily is carrying out in Kathmandu.
I have always been interested in developing my understanding of cultures that are very different to my own, which is white British with a touch of Scottish, Welsh and Jewish! My interest in differing cultures and my role as a head teacher led me to visit a Navajo school in New Mexico. I was able to share these experiences with the children in my school and to help develop their empathy and understanding of how our world is made up of very different people who ultimately want to live safe, happy lives for themselves and their families. It was an amazing experience where I made Welsh cakes and they made Navajo Fry bread. No Welsh cakes left - they were eaten as they left the griddle. It brought home how lucky we are to live in the UK where as a head teacher I could provide the children in school with virtually everything they need. When I showed the children, some of the photos that I had taken all they saw was the play frame. When I asked them to look beyond that they said - 'there's nothing there' and there wasn't - no trees, no flowers, no grass, just a barren landscape which was under threat from the US government because of the rich minerals underneath. A little girl gave me a stone, which she had picked up in the yard as a parting gift - I still have it.
I qualified as a teacher in 1968 and began my career in Coventry. After I married in 1970, I began working Mid Glamorgan. I was appointed as a teacher, a Deputy Head Teacher and finally as a Head Teacher. I have two children and two grandchildren - boys, one who is 27 and the other who is 4. In August 2015 I finally retired and when I am asked if I miss working I can't answer as I haven't had the time to think about it! However, I miss the children and I loved every minute of my career. I am an avid reader of historical novels with the Tudor period being my favourite and I enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people. I have been on exchange visits with teachers to Sydney, Australia and to a Navajo school in Naschitti, New Mexico. Both were wonderful experiences but meeting with the Navajo teachers and children will stay with me forever and helped to develop my understanding and respect for very different cultures.
I knit, sew and crochet and one Christmas I knitted dozens of Father Christmases for our Nepal appeal. I enjoy watching the television…anything really! I regularly visit the theatre and enjoy both serious and light hearted productions including musicals but most of all I like ballet and I enjoy 'surfing the net' and catching up with friends on Facebook and Twitter. I have joined the local sports centre and attend Zumba, aqua Zumba and circuit training …do I enjoy this? The truthful answer? Sometimes!
I support many charities and in particular Ty Hafan (a children's hospice), Air Ambulance, the British Legion, Tenovus and the Bridgend Alzheimer Society of which I was president for four years from 1996 to 2000. I was asked to investigate a charity in Nepal for the purpose of awarding a grant from the Soroptimist International charity appeal in 2016. This became a turning point for me, meeting with Philip and discovering how he has helped many underprivileged and desperate women and girls (and boys) in Nepal was a revelation and just made me want to offer support and help. And so we come to today hopefully emerging from COVID-19, at least the developed world is! What about those underprivileged people in developing countries like Nepal? This where Pipal Tree is stepping in with grass roots projects which include environment and climate change, education and community support, vulnerable and abused children and empowering girls and women. Each project is as important to this developing country and as a retired head teacher, my particular interest lies in education and supporting the women and girls through Lily's project - Empowering girls and women.
I am delighted that Lily is leading a project very close to my heart and I offer my wholehearted support to what she is undertaking. Empowering girls and women who lack the skills and education are the most vulnerable in all societies but more so where they are trapped by poverty and stigma as in South Nepal. Lily's Leaves offers a solution to some of these problems and will eventually become self-sustaining. The intention is to use natural forest products for weaving and jewellery making. The training offered will provide these women and girls with hope for the future for themselves and their families. I personally cannot wait to get my hands on the silver jewellery and the bracelets designed by the girls using the seeds of the Pipal trees.
Finally, I offer my wholehearted support to Pipal Tree and the wonderful work that is being undertaken by Philip and the grass roots workers in Nepal.
All of our Trustees are appointed on a three-year tenure. As it happens, this coincides perfectly with our goal of Lily's Leaves becoming self-sustaining by the end of 2024. I have no doubt that with her proven commitment, not to mention enthusiasm for craft products (!), Rayner will be a very hands-on Trustee in regular support to our day-to-day work alongside her responsibilities towards the good governance of the charity. Welcome!