THE U3A EL MORCHE ANNUAL REPORT 2012
(Covering the period of 18th May 2011 to today 24th May 2012)
The purpose of this, my first Annual Report, is to record the achievements and noteworthy events of our Association since the previous Report of May last year. For the benefit of new members, I should explain that I took over as President on May 18th last year from Christine Narbett (our Founder), who sadly passed away the following month. It was she who created our U3A in November 2009 with 22 members and with the assistance of a small newly formed committee. Now with the dedicated efforts of our Committee (which still contains some of the original members) and the Group Leaders, our Association has grown from strength to strength over the past two and a half years.
Ironically, I had not heard of the U3A organisation before joining, so when I took over last May, I was pleased that it was not a case of being thrown in at the deep end, as the “pool” was still quite shallow, but it is now filling up. We are not actually affiliated to the UK body, so we are not a branch of any sort, however we try to adhere to their aims and principles as far as we can, given our unique situation being (mostly) ex-pats spread out across the Axarquia region, some members of whom are not here full time, which brings it’s own intriguing challenges.
The word “university” in the name is used in its original sense, that is people coming together to share and pursue “learning” in all its forms, including games, of which there are a number on offer and other “leisure” pursuits. This reflects the more “laid back” attitude of Southern Spain which we came here to enjoy.
We have addressed the following subjects over the last twelve months:-
We currently have sixteen group activities up and running, which include a number of outside pursuits such as Walking and Petanque. We have had the addition of nine new groups since May last year, but have lost a couple of those on the way due to lack of commitment by members. We have also had to do away with the Computing and Gardening groups as there are no members willing to take on these subjects, although I am happy to report that the History group has been resurrected. Some groups just have a select few members, whilst others have about forty on their register (just as well that they don’t all turn up at once). However, one or two group activities (such as Debating and Table Tennis) are very keen for more members to join them. Remember, use them or lose them!
Since last May, some 55 new members have joined our Association and whilst a few others did not renew in January (although some have promised to do so), we now have (at the last count) 110 fully paid up members. So we have double our membership over the last 12 months.
The last twelve months have been very busy in the development of our Association. We have achieved the following:-
a) The final drafting of our Constitution in English and then having it translated into Spanish.
b) The completion of our Constitution, on the 28th May 2011, a copy of which is on the Web site (in English and Spanish).
c) The registration of our Constitution with the Junta de Andalucia.
d) Registering with the Tax Authorities.
e) Opening a bank account with Unicaja.
Since last May the following changes have been made to the original Association’s “practices”, namely:-
a) The Membership year was changed from the period of November–October, to January–December, which now co-insides with the tax year.
b) The Membership Fee was increased on the 1st January 2012 from 10€ to 12€ (the first increase since November 2009).
c) A new Joining Fee of 8€ for new members was introduced, which also took effect on the 1st January 2012.
d) Also on the 1st January 2012, a revised Membership enrolment/renewal form was unveiled, the contents of which can be seen on our Web site.
e) More recently, the frequency of General Meetings during the year has been reduced from six (including the AGM) to three (including the AGM). There will now be a general meeting in January, mainly to deal with membership renewals, with the AGM being in May as usual and the third general meeting taking place some time in September, to deal with any outstanding matters.
f) We have abandoned the bi-monthly “Bulletin” which used to be handed out to members, as everything a member or prospective member needs to know is now on our Web site and this is kept up to date.
g) The rescheduling of Group meetings at Easter and Christmas has been done away with, so that the Events Calendar can now show a whole year’s group meetings in advance, without it being altered twice a year.
a) Unlike in the UK where every town seems to have it’s own U3A branch, our members are spread out from Rincon de la Victoria to Nerja and up to Periana. It is for this reason that our main form of communication is the Internet and email. With this in mind our Web site has blossomed since last May, thanks to our Web Master Ian Murray, and it now has a state of the art “Events Calendar” showing all the available group meeting dates, times, locations and even maps and a few photographs for additional information.
Also the “News” page is widely used by group leaders to report on their group activities so that not just group members can be informed of what goes on. We now also have a Small Ads site for members’ use. Most of the individual Group activity pages have been revamped with at least a photo or two. The “Home” page has been revised to reflect the changes that have occurred since it was originally introduced and the list of Groups has been split into two columns for easier viewing.
b) Publicising our Association falls on the broad shoulders of our Vice-President Roland Gillett. You have no doubt seen his adverts and articles in the various ex-pat magazines which have been responsible for quite a number of new recruits in the last year.
c) In order for Group Leaders to better manage their groups, they have now been given access to view the Database.
In Conclusion – How do we judge our success or failure as an Association?
If trying to reduce the amount of apathy and getting a greater number than a third of the Membership more involved in our Association is a mark of failure, then unfortunately that has been the case. On the other hand, if success is to be judged by an increase in membership numbers and with more group activities taking place, then we all deserve a well earned pat on the back.
As we start another year and look back at the above mentioned notable achievements, I wonder what else we can do to improve the whole experience of belonging to our Association in the future. I would like to see some more new group activities starting up and of course more new members.
A survey was conducted last year of which only about a third of the membership responded and whilst the consensus of opinion was that the vast majority (of those who replied) stated that everything was going well, no one could really suggest how our Association could be improved. So that is a challenge for the next twelve months, that and trying to persuade members to get more involved.
Our saddest occasions were the demise of our Founder Christine Narbett last June and Yvonne Edwards or “Evie”, as she was known, who passed away at the beginning of this year. Perhaps the most memorable events were the Walking Group Trip to the Alpujarras last March, (at least my toes will not forget it in a hurry) and a joint venture exhibition and sales of the fruitful labours of both the Art and Photography groups, last week.
I will end this Annual Report with yet another reminder to the Membership that it is due to the selfless hard work of the Committee and the Group Leaders that we are able to provide the activities on offer and if it were not for them we would not have our U3A El Morche Association for all of us to enjoy. And to encourage members to be more involved I would like to para-phrase that famous quote from John F. Kennedy and say, “ask not what my U3A can do for me – ask what can I do for my U3A”.