One of our goals for this Chapter Leader newsletter is to create a forum for chapter leaders to learn from each other and about each other. We’re calling this feature “A Rising Tide” because when one of our chapters succeeds, we all succeed – and we should share those strategies and successes with each other to lift all our boats, metaphorically speaking. This month, we are featuring one of the AZ, Tucson – 3 chapter’s four leaders, Jill Sobieszyk.
A “retired” teacher of 40 years, Jill now lives in Arizona and tutors students in many subjects, from math to reading. As an educator she finds the value of teaching so important, which is also why she remains a student herself, taking art lessons and researching our many grantees and their countries’ cultures.
Kia: Welcome Jill! Can you tell us a little bit about how your chapter formed?
Jill: When I moved to Tucson in 2015, I met a woman who was involved with Together Women Rise. I quickly became a member, and the group continued to grow every year. One day, four of us were sitting at a meeting and noticed there were about 45 people in the room. It was crowded! The four of us lived a little farther away and talked about starting our own chapter. We decided to host our meetings in the afternoons, instead of at night, and held them closer to our neighborhood. Through word of mouth, our group grew, but we still like to keep it small enough to all know each other and socialize.
Kia: Your chapter has four co-leaders. How did that happen?
Jill: Remember the four of us from the initial Tucson chapter? Those are the four leaders of our new chapter. When we started talking about forming a new chapter, we discussed our different strengths, and we were honest about it! Jane Botchie keeps our attendance and manages our money. As a communications person, I started sending out the invites, welcome letters, and Zoom information. Ellen Levey would contact any guest speakers and stays in touch with Home Office. And Ellen Weiden (yes, we have two Ellens) keeps track of who is hosting and presenting. We have also started having other members present at meetings, and since the beginning everyone has hosted. We’ve really cultivated an environment of everyone pitching in with something.
Kia: Can you tell us about how your chapter stays creative and flexible?
Jill: Because everyone in our chapter is an active member, we really focus on open communication. During COVID we would send out Google forms, set up meetings to talk as a group, and decided everything as a group. Would we keep meeting? How would we meet? It wasn’t until this year that we felt like everyone was vaccinated, taking precautions, and feeling comfortable enough to meet in person. And we wouldn’t have done it unless everyone agreed. We are all very accepting of each other’s opinions, so we are flexible with individual requests. We really enjoy being with each other, it’s fun, and we all have great stories and are committed to the mission of Together Women Rise.
Kia: How did your professional background shape how you participate in Together Women Rise?
Jill: Well it helps that I feel comfortable speaking in public and presenting to a group. As an educator I also love learning and teaching. I get so passionate about it. I went on the Kenya trip with Rise and my enthusiasm would come out every time we met with kids or visited a school. Last summer I met two women from Africa, one from Kenya actually, and I started talking about my trip and Rise. They were working on an education project, and I even encouraged them to apply for one of our grants.
Kia: Are there any grantees you’ve continued to stay in touch with over the years?
Jill: Of course the projects we visited in Kenya I still get information from every once in a while. We visited Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and there is stuff in the news about them all the time. I was also really impressed with Rachel Cohen from Common Threads, and more recently Dr. Margaret Niger-Thomas from Authentique Memorial Empowerment Foundation. She spoke to our chapter for over an hour, and we were mesmerized by her. Her story was amazing.
Kia: You’ve lived in many places, but are now settled in Tucson. What are some “must-see” attractions for visitors?
Jill: We settled in Tucson because my husband liked mountains, but didn’t want snow. The hiking here is phenomenal. I would recommend Sabino Canyon, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The views are amazing and there are many different trails to choose. I would also take someone to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is an outdoor zoo and you can see a raptor show, and being outside is great. It’s just perfect weather.
If you are interested in being featured in “A Rising Tide” or have a recommendation for a chapter or chapter leader who should be featured, please email Kia Hunter, our Volunteer Manager, at email@example.com.