THE Soroptimist International Jamaica, Kingston (SIJK) Club wishes to pay tribute to Sybil Francis, Commander of the Order of Distinction, a distinguished social work pioneer and a Charter (founding) member of the club, which was established in 1962 as the first female service club in the island. She was president of the club between 1967 and 1969.
When the club was founded 58 years ago, Francis was one of a distinguished group of professional women making their mark in Jamaica. She, alongside other well known Jamaican women such as the late Dr Joyce Robinson, former head of the Jamaica Library Service, and Ena Woodstock, Jamaica's first female judge, laid the foundation for a vibrant and engaged Soroptimist Club of Jamaica, Kingston, which contributed greatly to national development and the welfare of women and children.
Francis remained a committed and active member of the club, as evidenced by her regular attendance at meetings until she was in her 90s.
Long-standing club member, Joyce Byles, recalls that Francis “never faded into the background…She was a one of a kind person, very dependable and always said, 'I'll figure it out'. Everybody knew who Sybil Francis was. She was a wonderful person who contributed to life.”
Other members recall how knowledgeable she was, her pleasant and caring personality, and the fact that she was highly respected in Jamaica and beyond. In 2012 she was one of the club's three living charter members honoured at the 50th anniversary banquet and celebrations.
Francis was a trailblazer for social work services and training here in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. She headed the Social Welfare Training Centre at The University of the West Indies, Mona, for 27 years. She also served as assistant secretary in the early Social Welfare Ministry, liaising with non-governmental organisations and administering the Child Care Division.
Jamaica's Child Development Centre and Barbados' Women and Development Programme were established thanks to her efforts. Her passion for her work took her onto the global stage. In 1963 she was a part of Jamaica's delegation to the United Nations, responsible for working for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. She was also there when Jamaica moved for 1968 to be declared as International Human Rights Year at the United Nations.
Even in retirement, Francis continued to serve locally and globally, as she was once chair of Jamaica's National Council on Ageing and represented Jamaica on the delegation to the World Assembly on Ageing. She passed away on June 3, 2020 at the age of 106.
Members of the SIJK club offer their sincere condolences to her family.