The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is changing.
It’s not just for women with university degrees anymore – and may be on the verge of rebranding nationally so that it can even allow men to become members.
“We’re are in transition,” White Rock/Surrey club member Anne Low acknowledged.
However, Low joined past-president Susan Wingate in emphasizing that the underlying aims and objectives of community service have not changed since the local branch formed in 1959.
The 99th university women’s club in Canada, its original mandate was to provide programs and networking opportunities for area women with university degrees.
As part of this, the club continues to offer interest group activities such as book clubs, golf, dining, bridge and art appreciation.
But it also continues to advocate for women’s and children’s issues, and is actively involved in the community by collecting and donating books to the Sources Food Bank, supporting Alexandra Neighbourhood House and the AMA House for abused senior women, participating in an educational program for elementary students, providing annual bursaries to Surrey women attending universities, and, through the national office in Ottawa, lobbying the federal government on women’s issues.
Club membership currently stands at 100, but Low and Wingate said they recognize that – just like with service clubs with an aging population – the organization needs new and younger members to make sure it retains vitality and currency.
That’s why the club is issuing an invitation to interested women in the community to a lunch and open house on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. at White Rock Community Centre, where they can learn more about the mission and vision of the CFUW (pre-registration is required at firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Come in and find out about us,” Wingate said. “The first 15 lunches are on us.”
“We’re very ambitious,” Low said. “We realize we need to reach out to recently retired women.”
“There’s a tendency for them to fall into an abyss when they retire,” Wingate, said adding that after she joined the local club, when she moved to the Peninsula in 1999, she “never looked back.”
Low said the organization has changed as roles for women have changed. She first joined a CFUW club in Prince George in the 1960s, she recalled.
“When a lot of these clubs first started, the women were young and at home,” she said. “There were few jobs for women who held degrees, other than being secretaries. People didn’t even know what a computer programmer was.”
Even today, she said, a new generation of women – even though retired from professional careers – may still be in the process of discovering where their true skills and interests lie.
“There’s a recognition that a lot of women didn’t do what they wanted – we want to get them involved and find a niche for them,” she said.
“A lot of us had careers as teachers and social workers, and although we may be comfortable and have nice pensions, we are very aware – that’s why we dabble in lots of things.”
Certainly, some younger women get to know the vision of the CFUW locally as recipients of the White Rock Surrey club’s annual $3,500 bursary (including the 2014 recipients, Jessica Morrice and Rana Hazarat, and the 2013 recipient, Nelly Saber).
“They have to be in their second or third year of university – anywhere in Canada – they have to have lived in Surrey for more than five years and have graduated from a Surrey high school,” said Wingate, who added she never fails to be impressed by the scope of studies and responsibilities of successful applicants.
“They strike me as the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.
Local CFUW members are also involved with even younger generations through the One to One program in which they are trained to assist children with reading difficulties at three area elementary schools.
“These are cases where the teachers have identified students who need help,” said Wingate.
“It definitely fits in with our mandate of promoting literacy.”
Among other activities CFUW members have been involved with is operating the birth control clinic at Peace Arch Hospital, while their Gardens In Bloom fundraiser had to be discontinued as a victim of its own success – there were more who wanted to be part of it than there were local gardens to accommodate them.
But the possibility of members starting other interest groups is virtually limitless, Wingate said.
“There’s even a conversational French group, for instance,” she said.
“If you can find somebody else with the same interest, you’ve got a group.”
For more information on the CFUW White Rock/Surrey club, visit www.cfuwwrs.wix.com/cfuw-white-rock-south-surrey