Jill Smith of Cambridge NW has recently retired from her position as Area Organiser (AO) of EA06/7 NWR areas in the east of England. She tells us about her time as an AO.
"I was a late convert to NWR. Commuting from Cambridge to London on a daily basis and not getting home until 7.30 pm at the earliest was not conducive to evening activity so, when I retired, I looked around for something that would keep my mind, such as it was, active. I found the perfect solution from an advertisement in my local village newsletter and, in January 1997, I joined my local (Bar Hill) NWR group and have never looked back.
"I attended my first conference in the year 2000 (Durham) and was completely hooked. I think it was in 2004, Elis Coffey approached me and, slightly twisting my arm persuaded me to trial being an Area Organiser. I wasn’t sure that I was up to this but, my ever supportive husband told me not to undersell myself for which I am extremely grateful.
"The first thing I did was invite myself to attend a meeting of all of the groups in my area. I’m not sure I was all that welcome on those first occasions but, as time went by I was very warmly received and this led to a really good relationship between me, my LO’s, and group members. And, the bonus for me, I really enjoyed this contact and also attended some very interesting meetings.
"NWR has made quite a difference to my life. My own group have given me valuable friendship and have been wonderfully supportive. I know I can call on any one of them should I need help and they will be there."
"The first real challenge was for me to organise my first area meeting. I found this quite daunting, I had organised conferences in my working life where I had a captive support team, but this seemed very different. I needn’t have worried, the St.Ives group were my first choice and they were wonderful. NWR Ladies, when they put their minds to it, work incredibly well together and we had an excellent meeting. Since then I have organised 12 more area meetings and they have all been just as successful. There is always that terrible period when you wonder if sufficient people will be interested but, thank goodness, it has always been OK in the end, and the following feeling of exhilaration for all of us is wonderful.
"Area meetings are very important, they get members from your area and, if you play your cards right, surrounding areas together. Ideally, a senior NWR executive, e.g. the National Organiser or a Trustee, will attend the meeting and bring us up to date with developments in the organisation. There will be a very interesting speaker, a ‘bring and share’ lunch (and these are quite amazing) and some sort of afternoon activity. We aim to allocate table numbers so that group members do not sit together, in this way many interesting ideas are shared and everyone has an informative and enjoyable time.
"One of the benefits of having an Area Organiser is that she can help if a group is having problems, and be a link with the NWR office. It is good for groups to know that there is a local person who can be called on should the need arise.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed being an Area Organiser, I have met so many interesting people and realised that I have skills I would never have imagined. If you are a people person, who is able to organise a meeting (it really is quite easy) and are a true NWR person being an Area Organiser is very rewarding.
"NWR has made quite a difference to my life. My own group have given me valuable friendship and have been wonderfully supportive. I know I can call on any one of them should I need help and they will be there. It is with a heavy heart that I am giving up my role as Area Organiser. The combination of my age (85) and the fact that my domestic situation is now very demanding means that I no longer have the time, or energy, to do the job properly. I am very much hoping that someone will take over from me, I will give all the support and help that I can, and that someone could have all the pleasures that have been mine."
We would like to welcome Stephanie Dent from Downham Market NWR who has agreed to take on the role of Area Organiser for the EA06/7 area.