MWI President Ann Mandziuk's Remarks

ACWW University of Warwick Coventry England

The 28th Triennium of the Associated Country Women of the World was held in August 2016. Over 600 delegate, observers and partners from 43 countries attended the 6 day conference.

It was the first time I had attended a world conference of any kind and I was intrigued by the others from around the world, all the languages, nationalities and the dress of their own country – what an awesome sight.

Meeting people from around the world was exciting. I had the chance to talk with the president-elect of Scotland Women’s Institute. Anne Kerr and I had the chance to find each other on facebook before hand and then had the chance to speak several times at the conference. I had the chance to exchange e-mail addresses with others from Great Britain, United States, and Australia. Valuable connections to correspond with to see what is happening with their organizations and their programs. We may be from different countries but our issues are similar.

As the Canadian delegation we were part of the international entertainment evening. We read a story about Madge Watt – the founder of ACWW. What interesting comments we had after our performance. On a less serious note many other countries entertained us with hilarious performances. The next night was English Cultural Evening. We listened to singing, watched dancing and laughed at the skits performed by members of the host committee. Surprise guests were three of the original Calendar girls. What fun to have my picture taken with them! But what is so inspiring is their saga. Their story continues and next up is a musical starting in January in London. Their fund raising is over £4 million – such a testament to the ‘stick-to-it ness’ of Women’s Institute members.

We did work hard as well and voted on 11 resolutions, 3 recommendations and 1 emergency resolution. With proxies we had over 430 registered to vote. We also heard reports, participated in discussions and even snuck in one quick craft workshop. Voting for the executive of AWCC took time and much organization to get it done quickly.

We had a bit of time for sightseeing and that took us to the cathedral in Coventry. It was bombed during WWII. The shell of the structure stands with a new cathedral built adjacent to it. There is Canadian connection – the ceiling is Canadian cedar and the organ was funded by a $40,000 donation from Canada. There is large bronze maple leaf in the floor at the entrance to the cathedral.

Those who wanted to paid for a mystery tour at the conclusion of the conference. Bus number 4 headed to Sarehole Mill Colebank Road, Hall Green. It was the idyllic childhood haunt of J.R.R.  Tolkien. The mill is a working mill and they also hold other festivities in conjunction with the Tolkien connection. Our guide told us he fashioned Middle Earth after Middle England which was where we were.

Our next destination was for lunch provided by Bournville Women’s Institute in the community of Bournville. It is home to the Cadbury candy factory. Originally a factory town and owned by the Cadbury family the business had been sold and is now operated by Kraft. Our hostesses were wonderful and the lunch just what we needed after spending time on the bus.

After lunch we headed to Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter. The museum was once owned by the Smith family jewellery firm. In the 1960’s they just walked out of the offices on a Friday and never opened the business again. So things are just how they were on that last Friday of work. They were famous for bracelets and even supplied Birks in Canada with stock.

This was our last stop and we headed back to the university. Some like myself had to get packed to be ready to leave the next morning. Others were heading out on further adventures.

It is an experience I will never forget – such a colourful, informative, interesting conference to attend.