Sunderland teenager becomes youngest-ever Soroptimist

Jemma Tiltman aged 16 is possibly the youngest memeber of a Soroptimists club in the world. She is pictured with her great aunt Joan Heckles and grandmother Chris Tonkinson, right.
Jemma Tiltman aged 16 is possibly the youngest memeber of a Soroptimists club in the world. She is pictured with her great aunt Joan Heckles and grandmother Chris Tonkinson, right.
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TEENAGER Jemma Tiltman has made history.

The 16-year-old is the UK’s youngest-ever member of the world’s largest organisation for professional and businesswomen, Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland.

The Whitburn girl could be the youngest member in the world.

Jemma’s keeping a family tradition going at the Sunderland club. Both her gran, Chris Tonkinson of Dalla Street, South Hylton and great-aunt Joan Heckels, 70, of Golf Course Road, Shiney Row are also members.

Jemma, of Larch Avenue, who is taking GCSE exams at Whitburn Church of England Academy, said: “It’s a bit scary to think I’m the youngest. So far it’s been great and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

“It’s a positive experience and everyone looks after you when you are there.

“I think in the past it’s been for older people but it’s a good idea now for any teenager to get involved. Giving back to the community and other people is important.

“I’ve grown up hearing my gran talk about the amazing work Sunderland Soroptomists does to support local charities and really look forward to getting actively involved in making a difference to the lives of women and girls across the world.”

Jemma will help club members promote and fund-raise for projects such as human trafficking, healthcare, violence against women and clean water and sanitation.

She said: “I’ve already been offered a place to study A-levels at St Peter’s Campus in Sunderland and hope to go to university to follow a career in medicine.

“Joining Soroptimist International will broaden my knowledge and understanding of how other people live, which will help me develop the social skills I need in my chosen career.”

And she’s already raising money to visit the Wear-Surma Clinic in Bangladesh, founded by Sunderland Soroptomist, Carole Elliott, which is supported by the club.

Tania Le Marinel, newly-elected president of SI Sunderland, which has more than 30 members, said: “ We are absolutely chuffed to bits that Jemma wants to join us. When kids get such a bad press, here’s a young woman who wants to do something.

“Our goal is all about women inspiring action to transform lives so it’s great to see Jemma’s commitment to helping others.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho