The idea of a virtual U3A Coffee Morning was initially put forward by one of our members, Gaye Ilston, who thought it would be a nice way for us to remain connected. Our Chairperson, David, took the idea and ran with it. We’re just developing the idea and seeing where it can go. Our first coffee morning is going to be at 10am on Tuesday and again on Thursday.
We had our Zoom account set up by another committee member, Ruth, who has taught us how fun and easy Zoom is. We’ve had great fun this weekend getting to grips with it. It hasn’t always been the smoothest ride but we’re all laughing as we’re learning about it.
Today we had a virtual committee meeting: it was perfect, we had nine people and we could all see and hear everybody clearly.
Whilst we’re all getting familiar with it, we have said we’d ideally like just five or six people for a first coffee morning, so that there’s a chance for everyone to talk. We’ve said that it would be nice if everyone brought their own coffee cup that tells a story about them. That could be a good way to start conversation!
For the first meeting, we are planning for it to just be a chat about how people how coping. People can share stories and maybe concerns. If it takes off though, we’d like to have a theme. We might a particular topic whether it’s a TV show or a particular issue, so it might become a bit of a discussion group. Initially, we just want people to use it!
Once it takes off, we might have lots of different ones running with different themes. If people want to get deep and meaningful, we’ll have a group for them and if others just want to talk about Eastenders, that’s fine too! We offered all our leaders the chance to experience a Zoom meeting today and it was declared a big success
Some of the group leaders are going to be using video-conferencing to keep their interest groups going as well. Particularly the language leaders are definitely wanting to have virtual classrooms and run their language groups through this medium. The Spanish leader has found something called virtual classroom that she can pass all the handouts to, so members can do homework. We’ve got two book groups that are going virtual. One of the keenest members already to try Zoom is Andy who has a severe sight impairment running one of our three discussion groups who finds it better than the other offerings particularly regarding speech quality
Quite a few of the other leaders are finding other ways to stay connected. True crime leaders are sending information about programmes or news paper articles that people will read and discuss via email and the photography and birdwatching groups are sharing photos. It’s up to each leader to decide how they want to connect with their groups depending on themselves and their group members.
The video conferencing allows us to offer something else to our membership through these times and it keeps people engaged.
All the members that aren’t on email, I’ve made personal phone calls with a colleague Jean to every single one of them to see how they are and if I can help. We’re trying to make sure we’re keeping in touch with all of our membership, whether they’re digitally connected or not. The virtual coffee mornings are just one way to do that.
Andy Collins has offered his services to any U3A members with sight impairment who want help with accessing it. He is contactable at email@example.com