Keeping In Touch
We hope you are well and coping in this very difficult time.
The Social Squad, with the help of some of our members, have put together an extra eNews bulletin called ' Keeping in Touch (eNews 1)', which they hope will give a few moments distraction from 'lockdown'. The second edition Keeping in Touch (eNews 2) has also been issued.
This is not a replacement for Stanway News, our monthly newsletter, but will be an additional mailing for the duration of the current crisis.
We hope that many of you will contribute to 'Keeping in Touch' in the coming weeks, sharing with members, until we can all meet up again.
Stay Well, Keep safe & keep smiling!
If you know of a member, indeed anyone you believe to be vulnerable, who seems to have slipped through the official support network net and have no family, friends or neighbours able to help them with food and essentials and is struggling, please put them in touch with the Essex Welfare Service Hub via essexwelfareservice.org and by calling 0300 303 9988, Monday to Friday between 8am to 7pm, and Saturday to Sunday between 10am to 2pm.
Social distancing does not mean we can’t carry on being social and so below are just some of the great ideas and suggestions U3As have shared about keeping in touch with each other.
FOR THOSE WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS
Phoning each other - Set up a phone tree so that each member of a group could be responsible for calling two others at least once a week [this will be particularly important for members not on the internet]. Rotate who phones who. Make a phone-call once a week – to a U3A friend - especially someone on their own – just for a chat. The social interaction is such an important part of our informal learning ethos. Let other members know if you would like to keep in regular contact with other members.
Share your phone number (and/or email address) with other group members if you are happy to do so (many of you will be on bcc/blind copy lists).
Telephone conferencing -Why not consider using free conference call software – such as WhyPay which facilitates three or more people speaking on the phone together at once?
This will be particularly important for people who don’t have internet access or aren’t confident using it.
Reinitiate letter writing - Either to continue giving opinions as part of interest groups or as a pen pal type initiative to ensure people without internet access do not feel isolated. Write letters to your U3A friends – the ones you may see regularly and maybe those that you only see at monthly meetings or AGMs and are definitely due an update.
Local newsletters -We will continue to produce and send out our monthly Newsletters and members are urged to keep sending articles and letters in for inclusion. We are also issuing a new "eNews Bulletin" to keep members entertained. Interest groups are encouraged to create and circulate their own short localised newsletters to maintain contact with group members.
FOR THOSE WITH INTERNET ACCESS
National newsletter - Members who use email can sign up directly to the national newsletter. This is filled with information, stories from U3A groups and advice. You can sign up at National Newsletter.
Utilise Subject Advice - The Third Age Trust has a number of Subject Advisers who advise on setting up and running interest groups on a wide range of subjects. All have provided information on their subject areas and links to resources at Subject Advice
Running groups remotely -Where it is practical, consider running groups via social media and other technology which will allow you to interact online, video or conference call with several members at once. This could include closed Facebook groups, Zoom, Skype, teleconference tools like WhyPay to ‘meet’ with your members. Group leaders could request examples of what people are doing and how they are getting on, to share with the group.
Set your group members research or other tasks to do shared out via email, so members can work on it at home and can contact the group leader by phone or email if they have any questions or problems with task itself. Keep activities going and take it in turns to suggest one.
Closed Facebook groups: - There is advice about how to set up a closed Facebook group at Make a Closed Facebook Group. There is also advice about how you can Keep Safe On Facebook. These can be used for exchanging ideas, resources, sources of materials, keeping in touch and developing online initiatives to keep members involved.
If you are on Facebook why not join the U3A - Keeping In Touch Facebook Page, a private Group recently set up by the Third Age Trust. It now has over 3000 members from U3As across the UK, sharing ideas, photos, quizzes, jokes and more to keep you busy and interacting with fellow U3A members across the country (and from abroad!).
WhatsApp: - One suggestion for groups or just within interest groups could be keeping in touch on a WhatsApp group. This is reliant on members of the group having a phone that supports WhatsApp but is free to use and enables users to stay in touch by text and allows them to share photos. You can also make free audio and video calls via WhatsApp. There is advice at Make A Call On WhatsApp.
Other suggestions - explore the use of Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.