This week is National Trustees’ Week and to celebrate we are talking to committees from u3as across the movement to ask what they’ve gained from their experiences.
Today, we talk to committee members from Epsom and Ewell u3a. Tony, Vice-Chair, and Sue, Treasurer and Website and Publicity Admin, talk to us about their experiences.
Why did you choose to become a trustee?
Tony: When I joined the u3a, I realised the movement was one of social contact integration and friendships. When the opportunity was offered to me to become Vice Chair, I knew this was my chance to build on the existing, but build better.
Sue: It just sort of happened. When Tony became Vice-Chair, I got more of an insight into the u3a as a whole and joined a few committee meetings as an observer.
What is the main thing that you have learned since becoming a trustee?
Tony: Everyone adds their own piece to the mix on the committee; successes outweigh failures, so we push on making it a better movement. On the whole I have learnt that people join the u3a to experience a change of direction, share experiences and to enjoy their third age to the full.
Sue: You have to look at what the members are asking for and understand what is within your remit to deal with.
What one piece of advice would you give to any potential new trustee?
Tony: My advice would be to listen to members, engage in conversation, to understand that everyone has a positive side. Find it and play to it. Don’t become a committee member because you think you can assist. Become a committee member because you know you can make a difference. Don’t be afraid of controversy, fashion your ideas with passion and commitment but be prepared to compromise.
Sue: Listen to the members, suggest ideas, if a thought comes into your head that the members might like always put it forward. We have approximately a thousand members, it’s pretty much a sure thing that someone else within our u3a will be interested.
What one big difference has your committee made for your members?
Tony: As a committee, our claim to fame is that we have kept our u3a active, inclusive and engaged throughout the lockdown and beyond. We have entertained, inspired and supported our membership. This has spilled over into the national movement where our support is greatly appreciated and our ideas have been copied many times by other u3as. We have increased our profile within the local community via Facebook where we have our own group. We have made our members aware of our support for, and involvement in local community projects and encouraged them to become involved.
Sue: I believe that the committee members that were elected in October 2020 at the height of the pandemic have had a most unusual role to play within our u3a, the likes of which I don’t think anyone who has previously served on a u3a committee has had to deal with. We have pulled together and tried to keep the members as engaged as possible, we moved our meetings onto Zoom and also some of our groups. That I believe is the difference that we have made, to stay positive and encourage our members to do the same.
What is your favourite memory since you became a trustee?
Tony: I don’t have a single favourite memory, I have many. Our first ever PowerPoint presentation that was both heart rendering, and emotional, that our publicity officer put together for our Remembrance Month, to the wonderful stories it encouraged from our membership. The support and messages of encouragement we got from our membership in the early days of our virtual programme. And now that we can finally meet again in face to face and I can put faces to those well-wishers, a chance to thank them personally for their support.
Sue: Probably the meetings that we have held on zoom. The hilarity that happens when someone inadvertently leaves their microphone on and you hear just normal conversations between people trying to log onto technology that has been so new for us all. The phrase of the pandemic has got to be ‘you’re on mute’ followed by someone looking blankly at a screen and trying to work out how to un-mute on the particular device that they’re using that day. Also helping members to sign on by ringing them on their phone and talking them through opening the email that contains a zoom link and waiting while they click on the link and actually seeing how pleased they are when you finally meet face to face albeit on a screen.
What would be the theme song for your trustee life?
Tony: The show must go on (Queen)
Sue: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python
Trustees make the u3a movement work. Read more of our interviews with Trustees on our Sources blog and if you are interested in becoming a trustee, talk to your local u3a committee.