Almost a year ago the world changed beyond all recognition as we were thrust into that first lockdown unaware, perhaps just as well, of how long it was going to take to return to normal.
I am very aware of how difficult it has been to keep in touch with all members particularly those with less access to technology. Our usual lines of communication from NFWI to Federation has worked very well but from Federation to WIs and WIs to their members has been, understandably, very uneven. I am asking WI secretaries to email this to all their members and, with assistance from other members if necessary, to copy and post it to those who do not have email using WI funds to cover expenses. Regarding our usual Wiltshire News communications, the subscriptions paid in 2020 will be carried forward to provide future copies once WIs are able to meet and distribute them.
For those members who have previously missed out receiving some or all of the NFWI and Federation news over the past months here is a summary of what has been going on.
WIs have done some wonderful things and I am so proud of those ladies who have gone out of their way and sewn scrubs and masks to help the nurses and carers. WIs have met in groups of six in the summer, one or two actually managed a larger meeting in September, some have monthly meetings on zoom with speakers, some have organised ‘meetings in a bag’. WI funds can be used for a Zoom licence and recorded as a meeting costs.
Your Board of Trustees were determined to keep going and immediately learnt how to hold virtual meetings. With our office closed the Federation Trustee officers and I got to work and sent out newsletters, your advisers offered WI officer training and I began the weekly quiz for members, initially on Facebook, then on zoom. Following the lead of the excellent Denman at Home talks on Zoom we started our own events, firstly a very interesting talk on Adelaide Hoodless thanks to Pat Ruffell’s wonderful knowledge. Then came the Not the Usual Annual Meeting and with Sally Cross’s help moved smoothly through the agenda with business, speakers, 50/50 club awards and even online voting for the adoption of the annual report. Other federation zoom events have included New Speaker’s Sessions, a Christmas Celebration, WI Adviser Drop Ins, Modern slavery hexagon workshop, and Bagels and Bacon .
At a national level early on in the pandemic two amazing ladies began a group called WI Wanderers on Facebook and advertised virtual WI events from all around the country. Join Wanderers and you can visit ordinary WI meetings of ladies from Manchester to Kent and hear wonderful speakers. WIs across the county have experimented with Zoom, some have just had a chat and competitions, others have speakers, craft groups, book clubs, even theatre groups who watch live streamed plays and then meet to discuss it. Recently I went international as I advertised my regular weekly quiz for Wiltshire WIs on WI Wanderers so our Wiltshire members were joined by
members from Durham, Harrogate, Essex, Herefordshire, Oxford and Gibraltar. These ladies love to chat before we start the quiz and it is really good meeting new people.
Future Federation zoom events include a free Fairtrade Coffee Morning, a talk on A Policeman’s Life can be a Very Interesting one by Neil Sadler, Inside the World of a TV & Film Extra, another New Speakers Day and a talk on Internet Safety. My weekly quizzes are on Wednesday evenings where we chat for half an hour before taking part in the quiz. In person events including a Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt and craft events are being planned ready for restrictions being eased so keep a look out. If you have not tried to use Zoom and are still interested there are some brilliant videos by Buckinghamshire Federation have put together at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuupzEtMbmin6C1-mvRnG3LJ6oluL8HqL
Ever keen to create new ways to communicate with members the Trustees were delighted to discover that a recently appointed trustee, Ruth Davies had the skills and generosity of her time needed to build a website that is more adaptable and extensive than the existing NFWI pages. The result can be seen at www.wiltshirewi.org.uk As well as featuring federation events and information WIs are welcome to send in articles and pictures and advertise their events. There are also links to click on to take you directly to NFWI’s website, MyWI and Denman
NFWI in consultation with federations extended the 2020 subscription by 3 months (at a cost to our Federation £8,000) and introduced Subscription Flexibility so WIs can choose to reduce the portion members pay to their WI if appropriate. Full details of this change have been sent to all WIs and look out for a separate mailing about the April subscription renewal.
WI Life had very informative breakdown of the subscription showing that the Federation share of £10.30 provides the essential administrative costs, of staffing and premises, News and Information, training and support services. The £12.10 NFWI share finances WI Life, Resolutions & Campaigns, Grants and promotion for new WIs, HR, Finance & other staff costs, Support services, Office costs, equipment, the Annual Meeting and Governance. Your own WI share of £21.60 should give you Meetings, Speakers, Activities, Refreshments, Insurance, Physical & Virtual Events, Governance including AGMs and Financial Examiners.
For £3.66 a month (the cost of a couple of coffees) this is amazing. I appreciate that it has been impossible to provide a full service during this crisis but is paying membership of the WI a simple transaction like buying a loaf of bread in a supermarket or is about supporting a organisation that we believe in, want to survive, and supports us? Many have now got the hang of Virtual Life, we can do events successfully and we are looking into how to do some in person as and when we can meet. We need each of you to see the positives and hang on a bit longer, to protect and support the organisation, give us all a chance to get back to some normality by signing up for another year and be ready to join normal meetings and events. If In the meantime, if you are at all able, give virtual events a go, ring a WI friend and have a chat, write a letter.
We have some great events coming up and details are sent each month to your secretary to forward to you, they are also on our website and can be booked direct with WI House. However, as the vaccinations proceed and we look towards restrictions easing, more than anything we want to be meeting again and continue to enjoy this
brilliant organisation and be a community which supports each other in friendship and fellowship. Thank you.
Chairman Wiltshire Federation of WIs