You are welcomed with a heartfelt hug and a lovely, loud, Italian voice followed by a selection of delicious delicacies from around the world and an instant feeling of belonging. This is the International Women’s Club (IWC) – a home away from home and an open-minded space for women of all nationalities and walks of life.
I recently attended my first IWC event and wow, was I blown away! I was greeted like a friend and immediately felt part of this vibey group of ladies who live on the North Coast and all together come from 26 different countries, speak a multitude of languages and are connected by one common, basic human need – companionship. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, there is no better time to meet with the IWC who are a beautiful example of the power of global sisterhood.
“We are a friendship club,” says the bubbly club president, Mariella Di Natale. “I have been living in Umhlanga for a long time and have always heard about expats visiting. Coming from a different country, you are generally more drawn to a person who is also an expat. We always got together for birthdays and so on, but then, four years ago, we decided to create something more official.”
They found out that there was an IWC in Johannesburg, but, in true North Coast style, they decided to keep things more casual and created their own version. “We are very easy going and are not bound to any strict rules. We simply want to create a space where people can get to know each other, share interests, find support and build a network.”
The club creates a chance for single women who are here for work or wives whose husbands work away from home to meet people and take that loneliness out of their lives says British expat, Sarah Ellis. “No one is here to judge you. We are all here to support each other and encourage one another to be open to trying something new while being considerate of everyone’s beliefs and cultures.”
The IWC is subdivided into a myriad of interest groups from cooking and cycling to movies, books and even a French chat club which fellow long-term member and Ballito resident, Antonella Whittaker, says is always expanding. “We are not about meeting at the mall for coffee. Ladies with similar interests or skills are encouraged to start groups so that we can share and learn from each other’s traditions. One of the Japanese members invited us for a traditional tea ceremony recently which was such a beautiful experience. We have tried aerial yoga and had good laughs while hanging upside down and just love exploring everything KZN has to offer.”
“We also had a fascinating pesto pasta lesson where we learnt the whole history and culture behind the meal. We Italians are very particular about how food should be made and where the ingredients should come from,” laughs Antonella, who is a master cook herself.
The dynamic club currently has about 80 members and is always changing as ladies leave to go back home and new ladies arrive in their place – the friendships, however, stay for life. “We have had club members come back to visit SA and arrive straight from the airport, with their suitcases, to come visit us first.”
And the best part is that you do not have to be a foreigner to join the club. “There is a misconception that this club is only for expats. It’s for everyone with an open mind who is interested in learning about different countries, cultures and mentalities. And anyone who likes to have some fun,” says Mariella.
Details: International Women’s Club Durban on Facebook or www.iwcdurban.com
Text: Elana Wagner