I HAVE been in Liverpool attending the annual conference for Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (sigbi.org), Women inspiring action, transforming lives. There were inspirational speakers, who have worked their way through the most challenging of circumstances.

Reports were presented by some of the 350 clubs, about the educating, empowering and enabling work Soroptimist volunteers have achieved around UK and the world. Projects which are only a drop in the ocean of poverty, loneliness, slavery, abuse, genital mutilation, human trafficking, imprisonment, hunger, hygiene, disease and education.

Returning home I found that the fridge freezer had broken down with resulting problems, my husband’s smartphone had broken, the car repair bill was massive and Christmas is just around the corner.

My husband became a little Dad’s Army, along the lines of: “We’re all doomed". I stopped him and said: “I’ve just spent three days hearing about the appalling misfortune of millions of people worldwide. Please get this into perspective.” Irritating and inconvenient our problems may be, but life threatening or life limiting they are not.

Two speakers gave these words of wisdom. Former hostage Terry Waite spoke about appreciating the small, free things in life, when he experienced a moment of colour in his bleak, black and white, five years in captivity. From a momentarily uncovered window, he had managed a glimpse of a bunch of flowers for a few seconds. He also spoke about his mental survival being due to continually exercising and challenging his brain. Terry’s imagination saved him and he maintains that stretching himself mentally every day keeps his brain from atrophying at the age of 79.

A former UK police officer, Ellie Bird Lenawarungu, now married and working in Kenya, spoke about empowering villagers to enable themselves. More powerful than aid workers doing the enabling. I have heard similar from relief workers working in disaster zones.

Teachers spoke afterwards, agreeing that if pupils had some part of a project in school, they felt some ownership and therefore respected the work more. One of the problems with teenagers and their mental health may be that instead of adults empowering children to enable themselves, too many adults are doing the enabling themselves, leaving the children entering adulthood, lacking life skills.

Empower and encourage others to enable themselves.

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writes as Alison R Russell (chasingbows.org.uk and alisonrussell275.blogspot.co.uk)