Elinor Warkentin, Canada – 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.
Almuth Tharan, Germany – Vice Chair
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.
Hazel Burnham, UK
My interest in people from other countries started when I was at primary school and began writing to my first penfriend in Canada. Over the years, I have enjoyed arm chair travelling and finding out about life in foreign lands though my penpals from all over the world. It wasn’t until the early 1990′s though that I had the opportunity to explore these places myself. In 1991, my husband and family went to the USA to visit my penfriend of 16 years in Virginia. I realised at this point there was a more interesting way to travel by which you could be immersed into local culture by staying with local people. Shortly after this trip I read about Women Welcome Women as it was then and became a member. At that time, I couldn’t afford to travel abroad, but looked forward to welcoming women to my home. In 1996, I went on my first round the world trip and, as well as meeting friends and penfriends along the way, I met my first 3W contact in Cairns, QLD and the rest is history! I am the local 5W contact for the East Midlands and currently organising a Gathering in Beverley with 2 other members. I have recently been on a couple of great Gatherings. I have visited members all over the world and loved hosting many members. I love the 5W ethos and in March I was very happy to help out on the 5W stand at the WOW Festival in London to try and enlighten other women about us. I am really pleased to be invited to be a Trustee and to help to take 5W forward to be even better than it is now!
I live in rural Lincolnshire in the UK, in a region I have lived all my life. I currently work as a glass artist/designer and enjoy photography, walking, theatre, cinema, pub quizzes and having fun socialising. I live with my very lovely husband John, as well as Poppy the dachshund dog, Puss and some chickens in our little cottage next to the forest.
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, USA
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.
Vera Haezaert, Belgium
When I was 18 (in the late sixties…..) , before I went to university, I visited my uncle (my mother’s brother) in Canada. After 5 weeks exploring, I said to my parents : I want to live there….. This was not an option of course…. Belgium was so small when I came back, the people in Canada were so different, the food, their way of living was heaven for me. From that time I knew what I wanted : travel and to see how other people live and share their lives. I studied sociology, to understand better the society, the different cultures, and the differences between them. 5W is an important part of my life. I have been a member since 1994, hosted many members, joined many Gatherings and travel a lot myself. Meeting other ladies in Belgium and all over the world gives me the power and the enrichment I need.
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.
Corina Puorger, Switzerland
Travelling as a dream – travelling as a profession. Born and raised in the small village Bergün in the mountains of Switzerland with a large family around me. Now looking back it seems the right mixture to be fascinated by the idea of 5W and being now a member since 1995. Let’s go back to the story – from the village to town. As most of us, we must leave the nest and I chose to become a travel agent as a teenager, this was the start into the world of travelling hitch-hiking, long train rides, the ferries the slow way to discover our beautiful continent of Europe. But soon I grew wings and the wonderful ease of discovery time started. Working abroad in England in the USA and Italy and all the countries I visited had one important in common denominator – friends. In the 90s I read an article in our newspaper about 5W, the words attracted me immediately and from then on I was a hostess in Bern (the capital of Switzerland) where I lived with my family, son Andreas. Now retired back in my home village Bergün and still having the inner discovery curiosity I wish to divide the philosophy of 5W travelling and friendship. Sharing moments of peaceful worldwide exchange and offering each other a quiet place during our travel time.
Agneta Rönnbäck, Sweden
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.
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