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Trustee Week 2022: Chair of Belfast u3a, Pauline

Trustee Week 2022: Chair of Belfast u3a, Pauline
08 November 2022

We're celebrating Trustees' Week 2022 and the incredible contribution made by u3a committee members across the movement. Pauline is Chair of Belfast u3a and talks about her Trustee experience.

Why did you become a u3a Trustee?

I retired in early 2014 and joined Belfast u3a later that year after being told about the Art Appreciation Group and the Theatre outings to The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. I was happy to consider contributing to the u3a so in April 2018 when I was invited to join the Committee I willingly put my name forward. I helped adapt and update policies for our u3a.

When the pandemic started in March 2020, it became clear that life had changed but those of us on the Committee wished to carry on as best we could, using Zoom for online meetings, including the AGM. I was appointed as Chair in mid-2020 and will have completed three years in that role in April 2023.

What does your role include and has any part of it surprised you at all?

It was quite surprising to find out quickly about the legislative requirements of a charity, the changing security demands of banking, the new skills required for online working.

What have been the highlights of your Trustee role?

Seeing the u3a through the pandemic – adapting to the online world and now returning to the physical world. We upskilled rapidly, using emails through Beacon to communicate with our members, galloping into the online world of Zoom (which we had never heard of before April 2020), and ran monthly meetings, two AGMs, two Mince Pie Parties and Committee meetings online. Since January of this year, we are back to some kind of physical normality, and enjoying every minute of it, with membership growing all the time, and group activities thriving once again.

It's also been a highlight seeing membership growing this year and seeing happy members at physical meetings since January 2022. Wonderfully happy meetings.

The year’s theme of Trustee’s Week is ‘making a difference in changing times’ – how do you think that relates to your Trustee experience?

We are proud of the fact that the in a population of older people who are often described as digitally excluded, only 3% of our members do not have an email address. This means that 97% of our members can be contact quickly and sent information digitally. Even in the depth of the pandemic we had over 100 participants in our monthly Zoom meetings. We have over 60 groups engaging in different activities, all of which keeps them connected to a changing world.

What are some tips you’d give new Trustees, or people considering joining their committee?

Be prepared to learn new skills – very exciting. Be prepared to work with others – it is like a new job. You will meet new people and you will be part of a team. Listen to members, especially convenors, many of whom have been leading groups for a number of years.

What more can I say? As Trustees, we have to admit that we run a charity – not an easy task. You need to be ready to work hard, to learn about new organisations, be prepared to upskill technologically, and be happy to work as a team member.

Photo: Pauline (left) with Carole, Secretary, and Maria, Vice Chair at Belfast u3a's Picnic in the Park in June 2022 to celebrate the movement's 40th Anniversary and Belfast u3a's 22nd Anniversary 

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