My WI Experience: Sam

Continuing my series of posts from WI members sharing their experiences is Sam who writes Smart Cookie Sam.
It has been lovely about writing this series and getting other members to share their experience is that everyone is positive. And more or less joined for the exact same reasons, and gained what they intended to.
I'm glad Sam picked up on a couple of points with regards to trips and meeting times. Having researched local groups this week I noticed that if I wanted to go to another group in addition to the one I will be attending anyway, I would need to get someone to look after the boys. 
How long have you been a member of the WI?
I’ve been a member for 6 years now of my local branch which is Marton cum Grafton WI (North Yorkshire West Federation)

What made you join?
I had lived in my area for a few years but realised once my kids were at school I didn’t see anyone anymore.  Most of my friends had gone back to work (me included).  I also found that I hardly knew anyone in my own village. I wanted to meet some new friends who had common interests in crafts and baking, etc.

Did you go to the meetings alone?
 No, two ladies from my village who were the president and vice president took it in turns to give me a lift the first few times. Even though they lived in my small village I didn’t really know them at all then. They were very kind and welcoming. Now there are more members we all take it in turns to share lifts!

What were you expecting from meetings and being a member?
I must admit I did have stereotypical preconceptions of the WI before I joined.  I thought it would be all “Jam and Jerusalem” and I would be by far the youngest member of the group but this is completely the opposite.  I joined when I was 35 and was one of the younger ones but not the only one.  We do not sing Jerusalem at our meetings and I have never made jam.  The film Calendar Girls (which is one of my favourite films of all time) did make you think that you would get dreary speakers.  We have had really interesting ones over the years and our programme organisers on the Committee work very hard to ensure there is something for everyone throughout the year.

Were your expectations met?
Yes they were.  After about 6 months I felt happy enough to join the Committee. I was the Treasurer for three years which was a great learning experience for me.  I had to come off the Committee due to big work commitments but I would love to rejoin in the future if they’ll have me.  
I just feel sad sometimes that I have missed a few meetings recently what with one thing and another. The other thing I find disappointing is that there are trips organised but I can’t go on them as they’re mainly during the week when I am working.  Our WI is vibrant and I think this is down to the previous Presidents and our current one. 

Do you think there is a stereotype regarding women and the WI?
Yes, to a certain extent.  At first when I joined the WI my husband teased me along the jam and Jerusalem lines and said “Are you stripping off for a calendar?”  Other friends have made jibes about the WI being full of “old grannies”.  My WI is not full of old grannies, there are ladies of all ages.  I really enjoy chatting to the younger members and the older members. I think the stories and life experiences they share are wonderful.  I do think that attitudes are changing towards the WI though, there is a swing back towards baking and crafts and some younger members want to hark back to what it was like when their mum’s or grandmas were young. 

What type of activities do you do?
Our WI has a varied programme of activities to suit all our members.  Our programme organiser tries to have hands on craft activities, a historical lecture, poetry, travel, a cookery demo, etc. We always go on an outing for our June meeting which is always lovely. In previous years this has been to a vineyard and last year we went to Swinton Park near Masham which is a gorgeous hotel with a birds of prey centre.  We watched a bird demo and then had tea and cake.  We always have a bbq in July and host regular activities such as quiz nights, village coffee mornings, carol singing and we always do teas and coffees at the village Open Gardens.  There is something for everyone.

What do I get out of it?
Well to begin with I made lots of new friends, I’ve learnt new skills and been educated about current issues and local affairs at the same time.  I just wish I could make every meeting though.

Do you recommend it?
Definitely. Go for it.  The membership fee of £33 for this year is well spent thinking of all the new things I have learnt over the years.  You will make new friends where you will have something in common and you don’t have to be an expert cake baker or jam maker!

The WI is perfect for- socialising, tea and cake!
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