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International friendship! 5W members meet up in many different ways. A member in Canada recently posted her plans to walk…

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Agneta Rönnbäck, Sweden  – Chair

I work full time as an administrator. My interests at the moment, apart from 5W, are choir singing, Buddhist meditation, UN Association, exercising – mostly water gymnastics, bicycling, walking. I am also a member of the International Friendship League and the Latin American Committee. My travelling days started in 1993 when I gave myself a journey for my 40th birthday of three months in India. Still travelling and, after five long trips to India, I am now exploring the rest of the globe. In 1995 I joined 5W and in 1997 I met the first member, in India. My first Gathering was in Ghana in 2000, never to be forgotten and since then, Japan, Australia twice, and South Africa. I have hosted guests from England, Australia, USA and Germany and hope many more will come. I am enjoying the work on the 5W Board and hope to see many of you in the future.

Elinor Warkentin, Canada – Vice Chair

From an early age, I have been fascinated by the idea of travelling to distant lands. Perhaps the allure began while listening to my grandfather’s stories, or growing up on a Canadian prairie farm and craving to see the wider world. Wherever my love of travel adventures came from, as soon as I was 18, I began my adventures to new places. From hitch-hiking in Canada in the ‘70s, to a student exchange to Sri Lanka as a young adult, then a tour of South America in my thirties, I explored meeting people and seeing places. I joined 5W in 1999, and then set off on a year of travel to celebrate turning 40. My experience with friendly, remarkable, and welcoming members was such a positive experience that I returned home to write, speak, and dream about 5W. In 2004, I was invited to become a 5W Trustee, and I jumped at the opportunity. Travel and organizing are two of my favourite passions, and with 5W I get to combine the two. When I am not travelling, I work as a Professional Organizer in my business (Goodbye Clutter!), or enjoying my other loves: chocolate and running, not necessarily together.

Noriko Aoki, Japan

I joined 5W in 1995 and I was chosen to become a Trustee the following year.  I have lived in Brisbane, Australia for two years and came back to Japan in 2007. During my stay in Australia with my family, I learned Aromatherapy and received a diploma.  I now run a small café providing healthy lunches, fair trade products and aromatherapy items.  I live in a small city next to Nagoya.  I believe that 5W can give you a special opportunity to understand lifestyles.

Sylvia Butler, UK

I met Frances Alexander at a bus stop in Berlin, 3 weeks before the Berlin Wall came down…October 1989.
I was a youth worker taking a group of young people to Leipzig. This meeting changed my life as I wanted to travel and my husband didn’t.
I joined 3W as it was then and the rest as they say is history. I have been to…in no particular order,,,Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belgium, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany and India {where I met Mother Theresa}. I have made so many friends worldwide who have enriched my life thanks to 5W!!
I am now retired with a little more time on my hands so as I love the concept of 5W I felt it was about time I gave something back to it!!

Sue Coventry, UK

I joined 5W in 2006 and was delighted to be invited to join the Board of Trustees  in 2013. I have had a love of travel since my teens when I hitchhiked all over Europe.  Since retiring in 2010 from my job as manager of a Mental Health Therapy Service I again have the opportunity for extended travel and have twice been to India, both trips included some time travelling with other 5W members. I have hosted members from New Zealand, Canada, UK, Australia and Sweden. I also love travelling within the UK and meeting up with local members and in 2009 I helped set up our  local Lancashire/West Yorkshire group. I have attended two Gatherings in North Yorkshire and will be on the Berlin 2014 Gathering and Anniversary celebrations, where I look forward to making many more 5W friends. As a Trustee, I hope to play an active role in encouraging more women to join 5W and in supporting and encouraging all members to feel part of our wonderful 5W international community.

Sharon Giese

I joined 5W in 1994, after helping Betty Sobel, then a Trustee from the US, organise and run a Gathering in Connecticut. I was hooked. We organised a second Gathering in 1998 and in 2000 I became a Trustee and then chair in 2005. I have hosted several members, but my biggest involvement has been attending Gatherings. I think I’ve gone to over ten so far and find them to be a terrific way to meet members and visit places I might not otherwise have gone to. My mother, Betty in Chicago, was a member for many years, hosting over 26 members and corresponding with even more. I am a curler with the Nutmeg Curling Club in Connecticut.

Susan Kersley, UK – Company Secretary

I joined 5W in 1999 because I wanted to travel on my own, but meet people easily when I arrived. I discovered 5W when I read an article about it in ‘Good Housekeeping’ magazine. I’ve attended Gatherings in Czechoslovakia, Australia, India, USA, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Sweden, India and Japan and organised one in Birmingham. Over the years I’ve met numerous lovely 5W members. I became a Trustee in 2000 and my role includes not only being available to members wherever they live but also to the office staff, with other Trustees, dealing with any problems that may arise. I love meeting members who visit Cornwall, UK where I live, though I do this on a Day Hostess basis, so that I can be available when friends and family visit.

Janene Hancock, Australia

I joined 5W in 2002 because I was travelling to England, my first overseas trip on my own, and wanted to meet a friendly face. This was with a member in Edinburgh and from then on I became a passionate member of 5W. Since 2002 I have hosted some amazing women from around the world. I think I have had the most interesting conversations with 5W members – the women are so full of life, amazing ideas and wonderful adventures. I have also been fortunate to stay with women in Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, just to name a few countries. Wherever I go on my travels or even at work, I try to spread the word about 5W. Some women have never heard of it and have promised to go home and find it on the internet. Becoming a Trustee in Australia will hopefully open up more opportunities for me to learn about 5W and to meet more members and share our ideas.

Ria Monten, Belgium

In 1986 I joined 5W (then 3W) after reading an article in a Belgian magazine. That was one of the best things that happened to me and the start of new experiences in my life. In 1990 I became a Trustee. Over the years I have visited and hosted so many women from all over the world. I have participated, so far, in 26 gatherings from the North (Finland) to the South (South Africa) and from the East (Romania) to the West (Suriname). In 1993, 2000 and 2009 I was involved in organizing gatherings in Belgium; cookery workshops: 1997 + 2003 and the Friendship Weekend in France in 2004 – all nice memories. As a Trustee with a special interest in gatherings, I was always concerned if everything went well. Apart from 5W, I am a member of “Mothers for Peace” and involved in  a “Women’s house” in Afghanistan. Being a 5W member and a trustee means a lot to me. It opened my eyes and widened my horizon and understanding for other cultures. It is enriching my life.

Almuth Tharan, Germany – Former Chair

The 5W Office

This is the centre of the 5W world! From here, membership applications and renewals are processed, newsletters are produced and publicity is generated. The Office is run by two part time employees -

Caroline Stevens, Office Manager

Emma Dearman, Office Assistant