Soroptimists Delores Caboche, Margaret Lobo and Carolyn Hudon, reflect on the Peacesat meetings.
Could this possible be our very first Soroptimsit Virtual meeting, We think that 2020 has really brought us all together via virtual meetings, but in 1980 Betty Loughhead then SISWP President Elect and Sylvia Spear, spearheaded a satellite link up.
After a satellite above the south pacific completed weather experiments, the PEACESAT project was implemented providing opportunities for consultations and development programs in health, education and community services.
SISWP Soroptimists gathered at the PEACESAT stations in New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Australia, Western Samoa and USA. Thousands of miles apart, Soroptimists from the two federations SISWP and Americas were lined in an exchange of news and views , later they also linked with Europe and SIGBI.
Delores Caboche - Federation President 1984 -1986 writes:
Peace Sat was a "weather-reading" Balloon that hovered over the Pacific Ocean from the Western side of the United States, across the Pacific Island countries such as Fiji, New Zealand and right across Australia. It was loaded with meteorological equipment used to study weather patterns in the area. It also had great 'communication abilities'.
Organizations (no-profit) such as Soroptimist International, could use it for meeting type "Talk Fests"; we had to book our time (usually through a University) and then endeavour to get the various clubs on its pathway to connect at a given time.
I recall going to the University of W A in Perth and on one occasion a centre in Fiji (in 1985) when on my way back to Australia from the S I Board meeting. I took up most of the allotted one hour with a report on the S I Board Meeting, much to the dismay of the Peace-Sat coordinator, Betty Hudson (Carolyn's Mother).
Peace Sat was a 'fun thing' which brought our Pacific Island members in contact with the rest of the South West Pacific and sometimes the broader Soroptimist world.
There was some talk of using it for a "Club of the air" but this was not to be as it was de-commissioned about 1987.
Margaret Lobo Federation President 1998 - 2000
The Peace Satellite was launched in the 70’s for communication and Betty Loughhead Turland, through her New Zealand contacts, managed to secure a one hour spot for Soroptimists to communicate. The satellite could be used from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Guam, Hawaii and as far as California (though members from mainland America did not participate).
The reception in the early days was not very good. In the early 80’s the "weather bubble" was launched (another satellite) and communication was better so this was used for our ‘PEACESAT’ meetings. Betty Hudson, a retired journalist from SI Perth (Australia) and mother of current SISWP President Carolyn Hudson, chaired the meetings from our local University. Members in New Zealand and Fiji went to their local radio
stations. I’m not sure from where members in Guam and Hawaii connected. Delores Caboche, a member of SI Perth who was SISWP Federation President during the early 80’s and later International Treasurer, tells me she joined the communication from Fiji where she was visiting on her way back from the International Board Meeting in 1985 and took the opportunity to report on the meeting on ‘PEACESAT’. It seems Betty Hudson was not too pleased with her as she had taken up most of the one hour!!
These meetings, which happened about 3-4 times a year when the satellite was in our area, gave members the opportunity to share their project stories and also receive an update on the Quadrennial Projects which were The Caribbean and Fiji projects and later the Senegal Clean Water Project. Betty Hudson who edited our Regional Magazine usually wrote a summary of the discussions on PEACESAT which were very interesting.
It is very interesting how hungry we were for information as it came snail mail and was often old news depending on where you lived. Anyone who had travelled to an event brought back information before the written report arrived. Perth Club was lucky as we had Delores who travelled a lot, met Soroptimists and was very good at reporting in detail what had happened. Betty L-T included a lot of information in her Newsletters that came with the International Magazine called SPAN (Soroptimist Project/Programme Action News). These days the WEB has made it so easy to access news and keep up with projects, meetings, etc.
Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite – aimed to help facilitate development and public service communications in the Pacific Islands region. It linked the University of Hawaii, Maui Community College, Wellington Polytechnic
and the University of the South Pacific. Although the technology has changed, the programme is still active: read more at http://www.peacesat.hawaii.edu.
Carolyn Hudson Federation President 2014 - 2016
I certainly remember Peacesat and how excited it made my mother. She had recently moved to Perth to live with me.
I would come home from work to be told of her delight in being able to make contact with Soroptimists across the world. They spoke with members, not only in Geelong and Adelaide and Wellington but also further away. One day they managed to contact Soroptimists in Noumea (with some language difficulties!) as well as Samoa (it was Western Samoa then) and Guam (that was a real thrill). Remember this was before the internet and emails and mobile phones. Phone calls overseas were expensive and any sort of conference call was only by businesses. And they got this access for free!
There was only limited time so meetings had to be carefully planned so that the agenda could be completed before the satellite moved out of range. As Perth and Adelaide dropped out, countries across the Pacific gradually joined the broadcast. Unfortunately after a year or two, the orbit of Peacesat gradually changed and Australia and NZ were no longer in range. I'm not sure just when that happened.