Fight for what you believe in and never sit on the side-lines

Feb 21, 2018

Heather Stallard

In the month which saw the centenary of women being allowed to vote, Wellington WI were delighted to welcome Heather Stallard MBE to talk to them about her life.

Heather was born into a family which embraced lifelong learning; with a mother who had been active in the suffrage movement and a father who had been involved in the early days of Scouting with Baden Powell. A sound education in languages and science at a time when these things were still out of reach of many girls, and the support of her exceptional and supportive family, allowed Heather to have many adventures in her teenage years. After taking a degree in French Language and Literature in Lausanne, Heather’s adventures continued in London where she relished the busy pace of life and the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

After she married, Heather and her husband embarked on their next adventure when they bought a farm near Wellington. This farm remains Heather’s home and it was where she and her husband raised their five children.

Always one to get involved in local life, Heather found herself on the Parish Council and with the Scouting Movement as well as setting up a monthly market which is still going 36 years later.

After a chance encounter in a traffic queue, Heather was inspired to set up what is now the Blackdown Hills Business Association in the 1980s which is still very active and allows local businesses to showcase their products.

Never one to sit still, Heather was a District Councillor for eight years and has been on her Parish Council for over 20 years. She was instrumental in setting up a Community Land Trust in her local area which built 12 affordable homes in her village, with eight more on the way. Heather helped set up the Blackdown Support Group in 1990 to serve as a hub for supporting people in the local area, which has now grown to involve over 100 volunteers and many projects covering a broad spectrum of local life.

Awarded an MBE for services to the community in 2006, Heather urged members to become involved in the local community, fight for what you believe in and never sit on the side-lines.

Our second speaker was Elaine, representing Refugee Aid from Taunton, who spoke to our members of the amazing work which RAFT undertakes.

This organisation has grown from a few boxes in the garage of the founder to having recently made their 254th shipment of aid. RAFT is organised and supported on a totally voluntary basis and Elaine explained the different projects which they undertake.

As well as shipments of clothing and food supplies for Syria and Calais, RAFT also puts together sewing kits which allow cottage industries to be set up in African communities, and projects to produce reusable sanitary towels for women in difficult situations or remote areas.

The ethos of the organisation was one of reuse, recycle and be inventive with what you are given, and Elaine explained some of the clever ways which they use to raise money to pay for the shipments as well as utilising donations. She assured members of a warm welcome at the RAFT centre in Taunton if they wanted to come along and donate, volunteer or just have a look around.

As always, we have lots of activities to look forward to in the next month, and members were also urged to take part in the Somerset County Council consultation on the future of Wellington library.

Our next meeting will be on 15 March, when we will have a chance to practise self-defence.

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