WHAT connects a couple of retired teachers living near Oban, a former Glasgow office manager and a previous Ayrshire housing CEO?
All are members of their local u3a and their outstanding support for others is being recognised in Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June).
Nominators of Alastair and Zoe Fleming (Oban u3a), Ellen Wright (Glasgow West End u3a) and Lilias Dunlop (East Renfrewshire u3a) believe each is an exceptional individual.
All these volunteers give their time to make u3a a joy for some of its 12,000 members in Scotland. Plus, each nominee also assists one or more local or national causes.
Take Alastair and Zoe Fleming, for example, who go above and beyond to lead the geology group at Oban u3a. This couple love volunteering for u3a and Alastair admits: “We do this as much for our own benefit as anyone else’s!”
The couple travel by ferry and car from their home on the tiny island of Luing to Oban on the mainland.
Their vehicle is regularly loaded up with projectors, screens and equipment for monthly group talks and fascinating field trips. Closer to home, Zoe also volunteers for a group of Luing home bakers who supply the local café. It is part of the Atlantic Islands Centre, a Community Development Trust which Alastair also chaired.
In her own Glasgow West End u3a, Ellen Wright organises a Ventures with a bus pass group, a Sunday lunch group and a successful MOTO (Members On Their Own) group.
She said: “Since I retired, I have joined quite a few other organisations. One is Knightswood Connects, a project set up for senior residents in the area. I now host a health walk for them each week. I also serve on the community council.
“You get far more out of volunteering that you give. I don’t think I do anything out of the ordinary. Sorting little things, like a traffic light problem or a health walk can make such a difference in everyday life to so many people.
“I benefit too as I’m kept busy, I’m not bored, I’m not isolated, I meet such interesting people and I keep in touch with the world. It’s also got to be good for my mental health.”
East Renfrewshire u3a’s newest vice-chair, Lilias Dunlop, agrees. She said: “I certainly promote u3a whenever I get the opportunity. I think it’s a brilliant organisation and it offers a lot, particularly so for individuals who are now on their own for a range of reasons.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Lilias began volunteering with the Cosgrove organisation which had arranged independent care for her adult daughter. Since 2018, Lilas has worked on their fund-raising team, helping to raise £1.5 million. She’s chair of its Finance and Investment committee and has helped with the regeneration of the organisation’s properties.
Lilias admits: “Like most volunteers, I enjoy doing things for others. We get a lot of personal satisfaction from it or we wouldn’t do it. Possibly, that’s a wee bit selfish, in a way. Still, it’s about seeing the gaps and seeing where you can help.”
u3a in Scotland chair, Anne Walsh, along with u3a’s Scottish trustee, Liz Ervine, offered warm congratulations to all these nominees from Scotland.
Scottish trustee Liz remarked: “u3a is a co-operative movement and volunteers are its backbone. Belonging to one can really change the lives of non-working adults, some of whom can feel lonely or isolated. So if you’ve time on your hands, maybe it’s time to try u3a! Check us out at: https://u3asites.org.uk/scotland/home or www.u3a.uk”
Notes for editors:
- Photos: images of Alastair and Zoe Fleming (Oban u3a), Ellen Wright (Glasgow West End u3a) and Lilias Dunlop (East Renfrewshire u3a) are available during Volunteers’ Week, 1-7 June 2023 (copyright of each nominee.) For more details and interviews, please contact u3a Scotland PR Advisor, Allana Parker on M: 07483 820027.
- Volunteers’ Week runs every year from 1-7 June. Full details of how to get involved and to read more volunteer stories, log onto : https://volunteersweek.org/.
- u3a is a self-help learning organisation for curious individuals no longer in full time work. Each is run by volunteers and every member is free to share their knowledge and skills in groups or activities. u3as are part of a UK-wide and international educational movement and its motto is ‘Learn, laugh, live’. Scotland has around 12,000 members in 54 u3as who enjoy the social side of new activities, interests and hobbies: https://u3asites.org.uk/scotland/members Several u3a interest/ subject groups are also available to use via u3a Online Across Scotland: https://u3asites.org.uk/onlineacrossscotland/home Full details about the nationwide peer-learning for fun movement can be found at: https://www.u3a.org.uk/
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