Women’s Institute gave Yvonne Lister skills and confidence to further herself and help others in the community.
She has been a WI member for the past 50 years and has held position of secretary and committee member but has also been on the Mid Canterbury Federation of WI for eight years.
She has also worked in paid and voluntary roles where those learned skills have been useful either connecting with people, taking on secretarial/treasurer duties, co-ordinating events or running a meeting.
Yvonne was introduced to the Highbank WI in February 1970 by WI stalwart Edna Low.
Yvonne, her late husband John and infant son Daryl, just three months old, had moved into a rented farm cottage on the Low property while they waiting for their new home on a neighbouring farm to be ready.
The young couple were 18 months married and although they had both grown up in rural communities; Yvonne around Mid Canterbury and John from Dunedin to Springburn, they moved to Highbank from Ashburton.
It was a 30 minute drive to town and at the time Yvonne did not have her licence.
The women in the WI became her social and support network.
They met once a month but also had excursions, special events and competitions.
They also attended other WI branch meetings from time to time.
It was a big group with around 35 members which met in the Highbank hall.
“It was real nor’wester country,” she said.
“I was happy and content to stay at home.”
Daughter Kelly was born in 1972 and there was always work to do on top of household duties, including making children’s clothes.
In later years there was also involvement with the children’s schools, tennis at Highbank and indoor bowls at Lyndhurst.
The WI shared knowledge, ran demonstrations and passed on recipes.
There was always someone who could help with one thing or another, Yvonne said.
By the time the Lister’s moved back to Ashburton, 20 years later, John had taken up woodturning and was able to do it as a business.
Yvonne, no longer a member of the Highbank WI joined Westpark WI based at Menorlue, in Ashburton.
It was an evening group which saw fewer members each year.
It eventually wound up and Yvonne joined Fairton WI. She wanted to stay connected with a rural based WI.
Since those early days Yvonne worked at the former Ashburton i-Site.
She started as a volunteer at Ashburton’s information centre before taking on paid weekend work.
“It was great, I met people from all over, many newcomers to the Ashburton.”
She has since become the district WI’s meals on wheels co-ordinator, volunteers for the Cancer Society and Friends of the Hospital, is a Neighbourhood Watch Support street co-ordinator, a community Christmas lunch volunteer, and been secretary or treasurer at the Lyndhurst Bowling Club, Allenton Bowling Club and Allenton Croquet Club.
this sort of work. If I hadn’t joined Highbank I wouldn’t have got to know anybody,
Although the number of WI branches had shrunk in the district Yvonne often thought of the value WI gave her life especially as a young mum living in the country.
She only hoped the new generation of young mums had similar support networks to prevent isolation.
The Fairton WI now only has nine members but Yvonne enjoys their get-togethers and keeps very active.
She has six grandchildren and five great grandchildren and her raft of civic duties recently earned her an Ashburton District Council civic award; she was nominated by Mid Canterbury Federation of WI peers Mavis Wilkins and Jude Vaughan.
“(The WI is) where you learn and helps you through life. It gives you an opportunity to do all this volunteer work,” she said.