The Chilterns American Women’s Club
PUBLISHED: 11:36 08 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:37 08 March 2016
Our friends from ‘across the pond’ make the most of visits here – and a good number spend many happy years in our counties, Jan Raycroft finds
Our links with the States are undoubtedly strong, stretching back across the centuries to the likes of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. He died, unfortunately penniless, at his home in Ruscombe near Twyford, Berkshire in 1718 and is buried in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker Meeting House in Buckinghamshire.
In more recent times there was the arrival of US forces during the Second World War and bases which survived until after the Cold War at sites such as Greenham Common – known to the stateside military as USAAF Station AAF-486 – which was used as a location for the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. In Bucks we had American guests at Daws Hill, High Wycombe, at times a base for US Navy staff and most notably VIII Bomber Command from 1942.
More peaceful days have seen a different sort of ‘invasion’ with many companies of North American ‘parentage’ making homes here, close to the capital and Heathrow. It’s a long list and includes names such as Hewlett Packard, Mars, Dell, Microsoft, GE Healthcare, Intel Security, Honeywell and Motorola.
In July 1957 The American Bar Association of lawyers raised funds to provide The Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede to honour the ‘foundation of the rule of law’ and members attended last year’s ceremony there marking the 800th anniversary of the signing.
Into this century, and the 2001 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup was held at Adams Park, home of Wycombe Wanderers, with United States beating Australia in the final. England has won the right to stage next year’s world cup, which will be held at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford. The home side are European champions but the US will be favourites to retain their title.
All these links… and for the past 28 years there has been one particularly special one providing friendship and fun while raising around a quarter of a million pounds for local charities. It’s CAWC, the Chilterns American Women’s Club.
As it turns out there’s much more than meets the eye behind the organisation’s name. For as I discovered as a guest at their annual Christmas get together at splendid Moor Park in Hertfordshire, while many of the 150 or so members are citizens of the US, Canada or Mexico, and so have full membership, there is also a sizeable helping of ladies from around the globe. Other diners included new members from Scandinavia and the Far East.
Indeed, it soon became apparent that associate members include those of various nationalities who might be the spouse of a qualifying citizen, working for a North American company (or married to someone who is), had previously lived in North America for a year or longer, or perhaps have children at an International School.
The easy-going and friendly nature of this club is further demonstrated by the fact that you can apply for membership by simply being ‘a woman who resides in the Chilterns, speaks English and supports the purpose of the CAWC’. But it goes further than that… you can also be a man! A North American chap accompanying a wife with a UK work permit qualifies, and current CAWC president Pam Houghton tells me that they have had gents join in the past while working over here.
As she explains: “There are great bonds between North America and Britain but a big transition is needed when you, and perhaps your family, relocate to a new country. One of the really great things about CAWC is that we have so many members who have already been through the process, know how everything works here and can help to ensure the experience is enjoyable, whether the move is temporary or permanent.”
As a result, many lifelong friendships have been made as people settle here, or continue as moves take them around the globe or back to North America. Members can be found living or working across the Chilterns, and beyond. So while some are based in the likes of Gerrards Cross, Wendover or the Chalfonts, others can be found in Cookham, Maidenhead, Datchet, and even London.
There are the obvious networking opportunities, but beyond that, and very important, is the tremendous mix of social and charitable endeavours binding the membership. Many people who might not always remember CAWC’s full name will have kept an eye on the calendar three months back for the annual Christmas Bazaar, an extraordinary event where now legendary gift baskets swiftly sell out alongside other goodies.
Funds raised are split each year between The Epilepsy Society and other chosen charities. In recent times these have included The Pepper Foundation, a paediatric at-home hospice care service and High Wycombe’s Horizon Sports Club for youngsters with disabilities.
So, if you qualify for membership (and it’s hard not to!) why not fly the flag of your choice with these lovely ladies? You are guaranteed the warmest of welcomes.
The club was formed in 1987 through the merger of two clubs that had existed from the 1950s. It’s a member of FAWCO, an international network of independent volunteer clubs and associations with 64 member clubs in 33 countries worldwide and a membership in excess of 12,000.
As well as meetings, they arrange outings, social occasions, fundraising activities and run several special interest groups, with full details in a regular newsletter.
Special events are often held at lovely locations such as Cliveden, Taplow House and Stoke Park.
Sporty members enjoy the likes of golf or tennis together, there’s a ‘book bunch’, moms and tots group and regular rambles through the Chiltern hills and valleys and along the Thames.
Find out more at cawc.co.uk.
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