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Newcastle u3a: Staying Connected

Last March, as soon as the lockdown began, an action plan was produced for Newcastle u3a. Part of that plan was for supporting members especially those living alone, did not have family or friends close by or just wanted to chat to a fellow u3a member. In addition, there would be those who did not email or use the internet. We needed to search for ways to be inclusive.

The phone tree:

I got a support team together, many of whom were committee members, to phone members who might need support. I asked each member of the support team if they would contact 6 or more members. Since then, several members have had regular contact with one of the support team by phone.

New friendships have been forged, and in some cases, with members the team had not yet met. They have shared precious moments not only on the phone but at socially distanced meetings when that was possible. We know from supported members’ comments that they look forward to their phone calls and we all like just to have a chat!

The support team has been amazing and so have all the Group Leaders and members who have also made contact with other members. The phone tree has grown and blossomed due to their efforts. They have helped to keep Newcastle u3a vibrant.

Extra mailings

I have been producing a ‘Newsletter Extra!’. Issue 9 was emailed last week. I also produce word searches, cross words and other brain activities to be emailed. Hard copies are sent to non- emailing members.

As well as this, it’s vital we retain members’ interests so there have been questionnaires which is a good means of involvement when u3a related. In this, we request ideas for meetings, ask their vision for the future of our u3a, inform members of the plans for resuming meetings, share information about virtual tours and much more. Again, members have been supportive by giving us feedback and many suggestions.

Facebook is another platform we use to engage members and inform them of what is happening.

Activities

Study days are planned, pop up groups, monthly meetings, group interest meetings, Group Leaders’ meetings. We held a coffee and cake morning, too. We try to show that we are still an active u3a and there is lots happening.

Within groups, changes have been made in that some have added an extra monthly meeting and some have built in an extra part to their programmes. Our members are very versatile and creative!

I have a link with Brisbane u3a and organized a meeting of our 2 committees to share best practices during Covid. Another will be held in March.

Newcastle u3a website

Our website is full of information for members. I created a Covid-19 hub to which members contribute, the Online Learning area has had many visits but the Well Being has certainly been popular. Again, it has members’ contributions.

A work in progress is the ‘Online Hub’. It’s not how we envisaged yet but we wanted to get some ‘How to do things’ folder posted with tutorials such as ‘How to Zoom’. We are looking at different models for online hubs.

The peak time for visits to these areas has been July and August, 2020. However, the Well Being and Online Learning seem to be at a constant and in demand.

Combatting loneliness

Members are helping each of us as well as themselves in a bid not be lonely. The above items support this. Also, a few months ago, I did some research into what our regional u3as are doing to combat loneliness. I made a short PPT of the results. I was very moved by the efforts being made by members across the region to help to keep members, internet and non-internet users, connected to their u3as. They are doing amazing jobs and deserve a lot of praise.

What is your u3a doing? Get in touch with us by emailing communications@u3a.org.uk