by Heidi Riley
The Women’s Institute (WI) is a 100-year-old institution with a provincial, national, and international presence. On PEI, there are about 67 branches, with close to 1,000 members.
“The WI acts as a strong voice, taking action and creating change in PEI communities,” says Sheila Gallant, President of the Women’s Institute of PEI.
“We are gatherings of inspired women where various learning opportunities create stronger families and PEI communities.”
Values and principles and activities
“Our focus is mainly on women, home, and family. We believe in a culture of collaboration and sharing. We support agricultural needs and protect our environment and we are very focused on education, leadership, and goodwill. Membership enables those involved in WI to get learning and leadership opportunities and to gain further education.”
Some activities members of the PEI WI have been involved in:
- Fiona response: individual branch members knocked on doors to check on neighbours.
- Taking Care of Women’s Business campaign raises money to provide feminine hygiene products for food banks.
- Fall workshops provide educational opportunities for the public and for WI members.
- Participate in the provincial exhibition.
- Roadside cleanup
- Send out agricultural and environmental tips to people through newsletters.
- Founders Day provides educational opportunities and embraces the history of the organization.
- Provide scholarships to university and college students.
- Fundraising in some branches to support food banks and community pantries.
- Support annual music competitions, and many more.
WI has been responsible for instituting a number of resolutions to provincial and national governments and has made changes world-wide.
Umbrella organizations include the Federal Women’s Institute of Canada (FWIC), which provides a national connection for provinces across Canada. The Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) has a key focus on development projects and advocacy for rural women.
“On PEI, the WI wants to provide an opportunity for post-secondary students to get involved in the community. Volunteering with the WI can make a real difference.”
Branches meet once a month for about an hour to make decisions on where to place their activities and time commitments. Any other time commitment to organize or attend events is up to the volunteer.
Volunteer activities vary from branch to branch. A sample of activities requiring volunteers in WI branches on PEI could include:
- Assembling Valentine baskets to deliver to seniors.
- Make a large meal at a community hall for seniors to attend.
- Take turns looking after a community food pantry.
- Host a yearly Remembrance Day memorial service for the community.
- Meet your neighbour night – invite new community members to meet.
- Host a community corn boil.
- Take up a collection for a family in need.