AGM celebrates year of wondrous achievements

Five new guilds already signed up, four more in the pipeline, a best-selling book, 40 sewing machines collected and sent to Africa, €30,000 presented to National Breast Cancer Research Institute — just some achievements of ICA in 2012-13 and highlighted at their recent AGM.

Held in Portlaoise in late May, the event drew 300 delegates and Laois Federation naturally had a high profile.

Its president Betty Gorman opened the meeting, while Anna May McHugh of the National Ploughing Association and a member of ICA gave the opening address — she was presented with hand-made pottery.

Laois Choir entertained delegates on the eve of the AGM, while Laois Set Dancers had members dancing. A local Comhaltas group also played.

Challenging the stigma associated with mental illness is one of national president Liz Wall’s primary aims and the AGM reflected this. The Samaritans took the stand, as did See Change who gave an insight into the work they do and how they hope to help everyone towards mental wellness. Each delegate who registered received a ribbon as part of the Green Ribbon Campaign, run nationwide in May to challenge the stigma, one conversation at a time.

Also attending was a Cappagh Hospital representative, who gave ICA members an information leaflet on knee and hip replacement surgeries, while Paddy Leeman, representing Margaret Collinson, chair of Women’s Institute in Northern Ireland, brought greetings from that organisation. Mention was made of social media’s role — Twitter and Facebook — in promoting ICA.

Attendees heard reports about the Vulnerable Families Conference held in Dublin Castle in February as part of the Irish EU presidency and about the joint Oireachtas submission on the trafficking of women and girls for purpose of prostitution. On a lighter note, they heard about ICA participation at the National Ploughing Championship and at the Harvest and Heritage Fair, as well as about the organisation’s garden party and national recruitment day.

Ms Wall updated on the success of projects like the collection of foot pedal sewing machines for Tools for Solidarity in Tanzania and the cooking stove project with VITA (Irish charity working to end poverty in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya) — fundraising resulted in between 350 and 400 stoves going to Eritrea.

She also spoke about the campaign to designate 2014 as European Year of Reconciling Work and Family life, a campaign undertaken by COFACE (Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union) of which ICA is the only Irish member.

The campaign secured nearly 400 signatures from MEPs. “The good news is 2014 has been unofficially designated as the year of reconciling work and family life and final official declaration is awaited,” says an ICA spokesperson.

And, fittingly in recessionary times, financial guru Jill Kerby gave a presentation on her Mother and Daughter Personal Finance Tour. She will give seminars to federations countrywide, providing women with specific information on dealing with all aspects of their financial lives.

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