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A volunteering journey with u3a

03 June 2024

To celebrate Volunteers Week, we are profiling a few of the many volunteers who make up the u3a movement. Trust Volunteer Brian shares how he came to be involved with volunteering at his local u3a, network and on the u3a advice line.

Brian, standing outside, smiling

In 2007, after 38 years as an Anglican parish priest in London, I retired to Matlock in the Peak District of Derbyshire (I love walking!).

One of the first meetings I was invited to attend was a 50 + Forum. It happened to be the launch of Matlock and District u3a. I had no knowledge of u3a, and meeting new people in a new (to me) area meant that much of the launch went over my head. I dutifully filled out the form provided and promptly forgot about u3a.

A couple of months later the Chair sent a round robin to those at the launch, looking urgently for a secretary. I looked at the email and thought that, as it was something I could do, and as I was looking for some constructive way of using my time, I might at least make an offer. Before long I was fully engaged as part of the team setting up the new u3a.

It was the time when county networks were being formed, so Matlock u3a spearheaded the setting up of Derbyshire Network with me as secretary. Soon I became involved in new u3a launches, including seven in Derbyshire; and began training to lead regional workshops. By 2019, the Third Age Trust - the organisation that oversees u3as in the UK - was looking to the future of u3a, and set up a development group. As a result of Covid-19, it soon became a group that started to transform u3a into an online, face-to-face and hybrid organisation to make use of developing technology, while attempting to ensure that nobody was left behind.

One of the development group convenors thought I was the sort of person who could be helpful and informative; innovative, but unwilling to waste time and opportunity. Apparently just the sort of person sought for the Advice Line. So, in addition to regularly sharing in leading training in startups, recruiting and valuing volunteers, legal and financial issues in running u3a's, you'll find me on the Advice Line one half-day each week.

I have been so fortunate in always having enjoyed my work. I like to look for challenges and new directions, hoping to inspire others to risk taking wrong pathways, yet finding unexpected opportunities for knowledge and growth. I get my greatest joy from working as part of a team.

When we look to an uncertain future, our exploration into the unknown will bring us new perceptions of what it is to be human, helping us better to understand ourselves, and to welcome the diversity we see in others, and in the universe that surrounds us.

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