Soroptimist International of Waikīkī Foundation, Inc.

Founder Region Conference

In May we had the privilege of attending the Founder Region Conference in San Ramon, California. We got to meet each district level award winner as well as the Founder Region Fellowship recipients.

Our exceptional Live Your Dream award recipients have triumphed over challenges of child molestation, parents’ illness and passing as a child, homelessness, single motherhood, decades of abusive relationships, and more, to achieve their education goals no matter how long it has taken. A mantra in common emerged among these determined fighters in pursuit of their various fields of nursing, medical coding, and sociology this year — to just “keep going”!

Our budding Violet Richardson Award recipients this year have overcome obstacles that come with Child Protective Services investigations, multiple surgeries, immigration, growing up with a single parent, and more, to take on the challenges of tobacco prevention, waste reduction and management, reef health, forest and climate sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights, ethnic studies, and even providing low income students at Kalihi Waena Elementary School with not only piano lessons but their very own piano to be able to practice at home. It is truly amazing what these high school girls have taken the initiative to accomplish in their communities.

Our brilliant Founder Region Fellowship recipients from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa are researching topics such as which coral species are most vulnerable to consumption by the cushion seastar, an abundant coral predator around Oʻahu, and how the loss of wild edible food plants by contemporary forest fires impacts regeneration in indigenous communities. By preventing the long-term demise of these ecosystems, we can alleviate the disproportionate effects experienced by women who rely on these habitats for sustenance, nutritional diversity, and livelihoods. In addition to their own important research, they make time to raise up other women.

“I actively engaged with the members of a remote fishing village in Belize, sharing our findings with community leaders, hosting outreach events for kids, and collaborating with a local women’s group to establish a business crafting jewelry from invasive lionfish fins.”

-Daniela Escontrela Dieguez, 2024 Founder Region Fellowship | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa: Marine Biology

“I collaborated with female field biologists to create a blog inspiring young girls to pursue science. This platform showcases stories from women at various stages in their academic careers, highlighting their passion and challenges.”

-Smitry Ramavarapu, 2024 Founder Region Fellowship | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa: Botany

We also heard some unsettling statistics from dynamic speakers on cybersecurity for our legislative advocacy program, such as:

  • 90% of human trafficking survivors met their trafficker online.
  • 1 in 4 victims are children.
  • It only takes 3 seconds to clone a voice.
  • 84% of sextortion victims are too embarrassed to get help.

This is why it is important to respond: “I believe you. It took courage to tell me about this.”

Expert advice for parental figures? We need to take an interest in our children and what they are interested in, because if we don’t, someone else will.

If you have the opportunity to attend a district meeting, region conference, national convention, or any multi-club gathering of Soroptimists, I encourage you to participate. There is always more to learn how we can continue to improve the lives of women and girls.

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