Sheila trekking the Camino

My journey to the world heritage city Santiago de Compostela started in Sarria, Spain. A world-famous pilgrims route since the Middle Ages, known as the traditional route and 120 kilometres long. Although, in truth, it started much earlier and some 20,000 kilometres away in New Zealand, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had seen the film ‘ The Way’  based on this walk and decided if I could get fit and strong enough I too would walk the El Camino de Santiago, The way of St James, in Spain. So in June of this year, 5 years after my cancer diagnosis, and countless chemo sessions and operations later, here I am finally making it a reality and walking the El Camino to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.  

As a Toastmaster for over 20 years I have learned to control my fear of speaking in front of others and take on leadership roles, but this time I decided to challenge myself by writing a blog on my story and the adventure. A technical trial for an over 60-year-old to cope with, all on a mobile phone and in Spain with limited internet. Fortunately again Toastmasters came to the rescue, and I was supported throughout by our new Area Director Tina Morrell.

I began my journey at this church, Iglesia Santa Marina de Sarria. I sat in a pew at the back,  in the cool of the thick stone walls, hiding from the heat of the day contemplating the road ahead. As I picked up my Pilgrims passport and obtained my first stamp I wondered if I could really achieve 120 kilometres.







The scallop shell is symbolic for Pilgrims. Each line represents a different Pilgrims route and at the end all meeting as one. In medieval times, once they reached their destination, the pilgrims would take a shell from the beach. As a modern pilgrim, I took a handmade pottery scallop shell from New Zealand. I had a premonition I would find the right person to give this to, once I completed the walk. The amazing thing was I met her on the first day. A fellow breast cancer survivor from Liverpool, my mothers home town. I am hoping she will make it to New Zealand in the future to see where her scallop shell was made.

Day 2 at Portomarín, the first 20 kilometres completed and Feeling ready for the next. Unfortunately, by the end of this day, I developed terrible blisters on my feet

The countryside between Portomarín and the next destination Melide. The clouds look ominous and an arctic low is about to hit the Pilgrims.






Walking over the bridge to Melide. My feet, by this time, were a mess. Blisters had developed on top of blisters and they finally burst. 

I walked to a local pharmacy and the pharmacist bandaged my feet. She told me to leave the bandages on,  never take them off until I returned home. I didn’t know how to explain in Spanish I wouldn’t be home for 3 months but I understood what she was meaning.

Here with Don Quixote, trying to smile with feet in bandages. Would my feet drive me to madness like the errant knight Don Quixote? I am putting on a brave face to the world as I walk alone. Where is my donkey? I need one now.

In the pouring rain sheltering in a small church on the outskirts of town.

Inside beautiful statues, I sit in awe, resting my feet and gaining courage for the way forward

The Pilgrims march on in the pouring rain, their coat colours reflected in the huge ponds of water.

Only 48 kilometres to go. Stopping at Boente Fountain, Fonte de Valeta

Now at O Empalme. I meet up with a group of Irish Pilgrims on route. My feet are forgotten with the fun and laughter. They say ‘ you are our new New Zealand sister.’

I arrive at Amenal and realize with all the banter I have walked too far. I have to say ‘sorry’ to the offer of hitting the bottle with my new Irish friends. Perhaps it’s just as well, I need my strength for the final few days.  Its back to Opino, but I don’t mind, the weather is getting better and the countryside lovely. My feet are improving and I now know I can do this.

Only 16 kilometres left for my journey. The end is tinged with sadness, I am happy to have completed my pilgrimage but at the same time I am sad to be leaving the most amazing adventure of my life.

The incredible World Heritage city of Santiago de Compostela .
Would I do it again?  Yes in an eye blink.

Read more on the journey on my blog

Did Someone Say Spring?

We had a fun-filled meeting this past week, with hints of Spring with our meeting themed ‘Daffodils heralding Spring’.  We were privileged to have two visitors with us, one of which was our Area director Brian Preddy. It’s not often that we have a male in our presence so it was wonderful to have Brian join us.

Sheila got our meeting kicked off the meeting as Sergeant at Arms followed by Denise our Toastmaster getting us off to a great start.

Our first speaker the lovely Priscilla, had a very topical and enlightening speech about North Korea and how Christians there are affected by the current regime. Priscilla gave us a very informative background into the situation there, ending with her wish that someday North and South Korea would unite as East and West Germany did many years previously.

Our second speaker Natasha used the opportunity to fine tune her humorous speech for the upcoming area competitions. We can’t give too much away here, but suffice to say that Natasha had us splitting our sides and will stand our club in good stead at the up-coming area competitions. The evaluation of Natasha’s was different in that all of the audience contributed commendations and recommendations for Natasha’s speech, which provided some valued insights.

Our Table Topics Master Penny Garlick, also had a great twist with her topic this week. Penny generously offered a current free ladies magazine to those willing to highlight the great benefits of the lastest editions of the NEXT magazine to the audience. Brian courageously sold us the benefits of the magazine, while staying within the bounds of ‘political correctness’ Great stuff Brian. Penny Lee also sold us on NEXT magazines benefits as did Sheila.

Our recent new member to our club Mei Staples, delivered her first timers report, with aplomb. Well done Mei and a warm welcome to the club.  With further evaluations and reports and Bette with a most helpful and comprehensive general evaluation it was back to our Toastmaster Denise who closed with some topical quotes of Spring and another successful and enjoyable meeting was had by all.

We look forward to our International Gala event on the 1st September, and some delicious food to be shared.

Shining Bright

Ladies, our first week of winter has passed and our club is in good cheer. We welcomed a new member into our club this week Anne, who has recently arrived from France. Welcome Anne, and we look forward to getting to know you. We also welcome aboard Priscilla and Tiria who have joined our club in the last month, with Tiria already completing her first speech, and it was fabulous to have several her friends join us to mark the occasion. Great to have you with us Priscilla and Tiria.

This week’s meeting incorporated our AGM with the election of our new committee members for the year with Sie Ling as our newly elected president who will most capably lead us through our next year.

We also had the presentation of two awards with Penny Lee being awarded her Advanced Communicator Gold. The Gold award is quite an achievement and the concerted effort of quite a few year’s work. Congratulations to you Penny Lee, and to Christine who was awarded her Advanced Communication Bronze. A lot of work goes into each award and it’s good to recognise their attainment and the steady gains that are made in achieving them.

Penny receiving her Advanced Communication Gold

Christine receiving her Advanced Communication Bronze








Club Award

We also, have something exciting news as a club. We have received the President’s Distinguished Club, having achieved 9 out of 10 goals, through our increased membership and also progression of members through the international education program. This is the 3rd year running and the best indication that our club is thriving!!

Our theme for this week was to ‘Shine your Light’ and our Toastmaster Penny G encouraged us to shine bright and not hide our abilities, which totally in tune as we celebrated our achievements this week.

Keep shining ladies!



Competition Day!

What an awesome Humorous speech and Table Topics competition we had!!             Penny Lee started proceedings as Contest chair and introductions of our competing speakers.  The competition got off to a rousing start with Sheila, regaling us with tales of her encounters with medical professionals, in compromising states. Lovey was next sharing her interesting experiences as a boss trying to keep staff members engaged and awake on the job! Carol spoke of her dalliances with an Irish gypsy, in the woods against the better judgement and advice from her mother and the romance that ensued. Finally, Natasha who recently joined our club, captivated with her tips for life and always looking on the positive, even when your 3- year old is seemingly uninterested in your speech. Your club certainly was interested.  A spectacular effort and a wonderful source of entertainment on the part of all our competitors who had us all giggling in our seats. However, there must always be a winner and Natasha tickled ours and the judge’s funny bones, so much so that she was awarded winner of the Humorous speech competition. Awesome effort Natasha. We’re so proud of you!!

After some scrumptious eats at half time, we moved onto our Table Topics competition ably chaired by Sie Ling Ting.  Table Topics saw six participants given the topic of “What has been your happiest moment?” Sheila, Denise, Lovey, Penny G, Nicola and Tina competed sharing their moments and stories of times had from the births and special moments with their children and happy honeymoons.  Well done to Sheila for taking out the Table Topics title, with Penny G and Denise placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.

A big shout out to our wonderful judges Beryl and Mark Baker. We look forward to watching Natasha and Sheila compete at the next level in our Area competitions in 2 or 3 months’ time.




Our most recent meeting was on St Patrick’s day and we had at least two of our members arriving in green! Looking good ladies.

We were also treated and had time to reflect on the season ahead as our Toastmaster, Carol Burrows shared her poem ‘Autumn’, which was our theme for the day. As with the seasons, so our club enjoys new seasons with several visitors lately, and we’re excited to welcome two recent new members, Nicola and Natasha. Welcome aboard ladies! Also, our visitor Nayla, who competently shared her impromptu speech, telling us of the seasons of travel in her own life.

In preparing for the coming weeks ahead, pulling out those winter clothes as the temperature outside moderates, just remember, there is still always a warm atmosphere to be enjoyed here at our club.

Poem by Carol Burrows 

Autumn is upon us, the season of despair, the heat of summer slowly dissipates, cold damp frosty weather, brings a remembered chill to our bones, as autumn issues the warning signals, of the approaching winter.

Turn your eyes to the trees, the glory of the Autumn tones, the branches radiant with golden leaves, the fruit trees bowing low the apples rosy, the grapes heavily laden and ready to pick, the fruits of the garden, brighten our days, before winter winds sweep them all away.

Soon we will once more hibernate, the cold will drive us indoors, blankets, heat pumps to the fore, leaves will fall and carpet the lawns, flowers will pull their heads in and hide, until slowly, slowly spring will come, with a burst, at last, to warm us again.





Celebrating Our Successes!

What a gorgeous winters day for the first meeting of Term 3 and what better way to be ‘Celebrating our Successes’ than with a fabulous Pizza Party!international speech_contest

And boy did we have a lot to celebrate today!!

Apart from those who have joined in the last few months, everyone received an award!! How awesome is that?!

We had six members who received their Spirit of Success certificates and pins were awarded to members who had completed their Competent Communicator, Competent Leader, Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Communicator Silver, and Advanced Leader Bronze.

The pins themselves weren’t presented as they had gone astray in the post but we had excellent photocopies of them, which we all found quite amusing as it has given us a great excuse for another celebration when the pins do arrive! Party, party!

The Toastmaster of the Year award was presented jointly to Penny Lee and Sheila Hailstone who have both contributed massively to the club over the last year. Thank you and congratulations ladies! Well deserved.

Each of our individual successes contributed to our club’s success of achieving President’s Distinguished Club. We are very proud of achieving this goal, along side our own personal achievements, It is fantastic how much we have accomplished this year already! We still have many more opportunities to come. Keep up the good work th2P661CFBtoastmasters and remember……


Perseverance” was the theme of today’s meeting. It’s an important character of oneself to continue in a course of action in spite of difficulty. We must persevere and never give up to reach our goal in life even though there’s little or no indication of success initially. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – St. Paul Christine, our Toastmaster of the Day kicked start the meeting with this noble theme. And coincidently, Denise had chosen the word “Persist” as the Word of the Day. It means “to continue firmly or obstinately”. Hmm…both ladies read each other’s mind…this is how we work together in CWC Toastmasters! Our speaker today was none other than our very own President, Penny. Penny was doing her Entertaining Speech in the Advance Communication Series. She told us in a very hilarious way what she wanted to do to stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. Her body language was excellent and she had a very good sense of humour. Everyone was really enjoying as Penny delivered the 7-minute entertaining speech which was full of amusement. Excellent, Penny, we want more! We talked about “special days” on Table Topics. It was very informative as we learned from each other how we celebrated different holidays from different cultural backgrounds. We had 2 lovely guests with us, Helen, who had won the best language used in Table Topics last week, and Ofelia. And both of them had decided to sign up as members of CWC Toastmasters! Welcome, Helen and Ofelia, we are very glad you join us and be part of the team. And welcome back Marilyn. It’s wonderful to see you again.


autumnIt’s officially Autumn today and we had with us in the meeting Mike Forrest, our Area Governor and also Chris, a guest from Sunrise Toastmasters.

Penny, our Toastmaster of the Day started the meeting with the theme “Togetherness”. She urged all of us to stand unity in strength, work together as a team and together we can achieve great things!

Candid” was the Word of the Day chosen by our grammarian, Helen. It means truthful, straightforward and frank. We were encouraged to use this word in our speech.

Shelby the main speaker told us the importance of knowing how settling in work while migrating in a new country. There were 6 emotional stages one would go through in the first 2 years settling in a new country. She quoted her own experience in settling in New Zealand and how she overcame some challenges over the first year. Her speech highlighted the problems and challenges faced by new migrants and how these new comers could get help and eventually fit in the new country.

fruitsOur Table Topics today were mysterious objects in a bag! What a refreshing way to present the table topics! Each of us picked an object from a bag and talked about it. We had orange, tomato, apple, plum, ginger and garlic! Amazing we could talk about each of these for a minute or two! Thanks Penny for this wonderful Table Topics.

Point to note:

When we use visual aid to present our speech, point at the visual aid and turn to the audience when explaining. Don’t look at the visual aid while speaking.

Have a great day, all of you!


This day 4 years ago at 12:51pm, Christchurch experienced its second powerful earthquake after the first one in September 2010. The quake shook the world and also the hearts of many in this beautiful Garden City. 185 precious lives perished.

At about 12:50pm, we observed a minute of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives, their families and all those who experienced and braved through this deadly disaster. We thank God for keeping us and being with us in this difficult time. We believe all the people in Christchurch will stand back up and Christchurch will be rebuilt and be a charming Garden City again.

We continued our meeting with the main speaker Helen spoke about her passion in teaching, her love for the children and the fulfilment of supporting and helping her students to turn around. She also told us the embarrassing, challenging and happy moments being a teacher and then principal in her school. Being “ruled by the bell” was her calling!

We had a wonderful guest, Linda with us today. And we were all impressed by her impromptu speech about which gender she would choose to be if she had a choice! Her argument was that it was not about sex but the heart that determined who we really were. Brilliant Linda. Thanks for coming and we hope you’ll join CWC Toastmasters.

Picture Gallery


A picture slider is added with some photos from the area contest for the International Speech competition.