RWNZ: large in thought, in word, in deed

Rural Women New Zealand Mid Canterbury provincial president Elsa Hydes, left, with Trish Small and Pauline Hewson, two of the three members honoured at the provincial 90th celebrations in Ashburton.
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The work of Mid Canterbury Rural Women New Zealand provincial stalwarts Marg Verrall, Trish Small and Pauline Hewson has been recognised at the organisation’s 90th celebrations in Ashburton.

Marg and Trish were presented with a Life Membership for Mid Canterbury Rural Women NZ Provincial, and Pauline a Member of Honour Award for Mid Canterbury Rural Women NZ Provincial.

Trish Small, left, and Marg Verrall were both awarded Life Membership for Mid Canterbury Rural Women NZ Provincial.

Marg is immediate past president giving two years of leadership in some trying times along with some very entertaining annual reports and winning the national Honora O’Neill Trophy twice. Her commitment at Winchmore branch level has been replicated at provincial level and branch members wholeheartedly endorse her input to the organisation.

Trish has held the position of Mid Canterbury Rural Women NZ Provincial treasurer since August 2014.

She has ensured the finances of the provincial are kept in order all being done with pen, paper and sometimes a calculator keeping the various fundraising, applications details accounted for in their different columns and making sure applications for funding are timely.

Pauline’s has been actively involved through the Anama Branch where she has held positions of president, secretary and treasurer within the branch and then accorded branch life membership for her contribution. She has been involved in many aspects of the organisation through to her current role as convener of the scholarship committee.

The women’s honours were presented in front of their peers at the provincial organisation’s 90th celebrations at Hotel Ashburton last week. Members also gifted a giant wall clock to Hospice Mid Canterbury as an anniversary project gift.

Mid Canterbury Hospice’s Fiona Giles accepts the wall clock from Mid Canterbury RWNZ provincial president Elsa Hydes.

It was a day to celebrate the organisation’s remarkable services, support and connections to the region’s rural communities.

Established in 1932 the provincial group of volunteers has looked after rural women and their families through many trying times, including the Depression, World War Two and post-war years, and more recently during Covid-19, achieving quiet yet notable results.

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) started in the early days as the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union in 1925, and has since become an authoritative voice on health services, education, environment and social issues in the rural sector.

Volunteers with Mid Canterbury Provincial responded to unplanned events and natural disasters over their 90 years. In 2016 the group arranged food packages for the Kaikoura earthquake victims and were recently awarded the District Council’s Ashburton Medal for their outstanding contribution to the District in the aftermath of the floods in May 2021.

Marg, immediate past president, said there had been many changes.

‘‘To look back from the days of those first meetings with the members dressed in suits, gloves and hats and see how well we kept up with changing times: adaptation is the ethos of our organisation at work, and we are ever ready to respond to changing times.’’

She said to be in existence for 90 years was a true milestone for any organisation and worth celebrating.

‘‘It definitely shows the energy and determination of our members who can take pride knowing the continued value that our organisation brings to our community. They are all a living testimony to the ‘Let us be kind’ plea as stated in our creed.”

Member of Honour Award for Mid Canterbury Rural Women NZ Provincial recipient Pauline Hewson, left, with Sandra Curd.

Fundraising for charitable causes was still one of the core activities organised by these dedicated rural leaders who have supported children, women, students, and a wide range of community groups over decades including significant fundraising activities for Ashburton Hospital.

Efforts to advocate for safer communities have grown in strength from the provincial’s award-winning 2010 School Bus Safety Campaign “Have a Heart” to joining the Safe Communities Ashburton District Steering Group and the Community Transport Working Group in 2020.

Current president Elsa Hydes said “we care about our community’s wellbeing and plan to hold fundraising, social and educational events for many years to come.”

Elsa, who originates from Indonesia, is an example of how to adapt to a changing community and the benefits that belonging to a regional support network brings.