WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE A WI ADVISER?
Ramblings of a Trainee Adviser.
Beware, if ever you are asked by a WI Adviser “would you like to come to Federation Headquarters and observe an Organisation and Membership meeting”? Be doubly beware if that kind Adviser says to you “I’ll give you a lift”!
As an unsuspecting, but suitably interested WI Member I went along. I was welcomed and introduced to various members of the Committee as well as the Federation Chairman. I sat at the boardroom table, was briefed about confidentiality, and listened with increasing interest to activities going on within the Federation as well as problems with some WI’s, opening of new WI’s, successes for many and possibilities of maybe a suspension. In that 2 hour session I learnt more about the WI and how it was run than I ever imagined. I was able to contribute with some problems I felt might be happening at grass-roots level, as well as asking questions referring to various ‘WI technical’ terms.
I was hooked and so pleased I was invited back. There was no talk at this time of becoming an Adviser, and I was able to find my way in, by joining some Advisers and visiting various WI’s. In a period of 18 months I visited many, some on my own, as well as getting more and more involved by helping at various Federation events.
Being part that team of dynamic volunteers was awe-inspiring, the dedication and the time put into all aspects of their work was something that I, and I feel most grass roots members, take for granted. In my mind I wanted to be an Adviser just to help out that team.
During my ‘work-experience’, the hardest part of the job was finding rural locations in the depths of Cheshire, and negotiating the traffic and the maze of motorways surrounding Manchester, all in the dark. Arguing with my Sat-Nav became one of my skills.
So in January 2017, following what I found to be a very scary video-conference with our Tutors frm the NFWI Training Team, I headed South on the Virgin Pendolino, to meet my fellow trainee advisers for a weekend’s training at Denman College.
Communications was the title of our first module. I thought I would sit at the back, try to hide, hoping I wouldn’t be asked to say anything. However our very skilled tutors had pre-empted this and they sat us next to another trainee where we could get to know each other and give each other support. By the time the weekend was over, my self-confidence had reached a height never envisaged. I was so proud that having been given the word ‘brick’, I could enthuse an audience with a five minute talk on bricks! New words were learnt. What is the difference between, explain, evaluate, critically-evaluate, aims, and objectives?
Back home, the work continued, with various assignments to complete and submit on-line. What should I write? How much detail? When was the last time I wrote anything, especially in joined up sentences? These skills were foreign to me, I submitted a couple of tasks on-line, expecting to fail totally, but with very encouraging feed-back from my tutor, effort and careful research, I continued enthusiastically, managing to complete the work with a month to go.
A ten minute talk using these skills had to be given to the Federation Membership Committee. No nerves got the better of me, I was proud to address this audience and even more delighted with their interest which was followed by genuine applause and positive comments. I was on my way! This was followed a few weeks later, by being allowed to run a discussion in front of an audience of forty new members, as well as the board of trustees. I wanted to do well because I felt confident I could carry this out, and because I intended to show that I was capable of being part of the team.
Our second visit to Denman was at the beginning of April. The trainee Advisers welcomed each other as long lost friends. We had all experienced the same worries and uncertainties, yet had come through to tell the tale and were back to learn more. This module was entitled “Understanding the WI”. There is a lot to understand. How do you open a WI? How do you suspend or enlarge WI’s? and how does the Constitution bring all aspects together, from Grass Roots to the top of the NFWI? We learnt all that and more, with assignments to match. This comradeship of the trainees continued. An email tree was set up, where we could encourage each other, answer uncertainties, share good practise and look forward to our final week’s training.
I am writing this on the day following what was a very busy final week at Denman. The beginning of the week focussed on Financial Matters (I’m glad I remembered my calculator) and the second part, WI activities, included retaining members and then attracting new members, as well as producing the perfect programme.
The high light of the week was a visit to 104 New Kings Road London. We sat in the boardroom, where decisions are made and met the NFWI personnel in person. Such a dedicated team of whom I am convinced that 90% of WI members don’t appreciate because, (like me) they don’t have the insight into what they do. This small building in SW London is the heart of our great NFWI organisation. It is full of real people, dedicated to keeping the organisation working, being constantly refreshed, keeping up to date as trends, technology and ideas change. They work within a tight budget to ensure all members get value for money from their subscription. I was impressed with the long service of many of the employees as well as the youth and vigour of recently employed workers. A great mix and their enthusiasm for their jobs overflowed. If I had to describe the NFWI in a few words it would be ‘the cherry on the top of our cake’.
I can’t finish without reference to the whole Denman Experience. Mixing with members on various courses was deeply rewarding. When asked which course I was doing, my reply of ‘Adviser Training’ became an instant conversation stopper. What does an Adviser do was the most common question, but the respect, friendliness and acceptance by others became very apparent. A visit to see what the members on courses were doing, showed the huge range of activities available at Denman, and meant I can enthuse about this when I go out to advise WI’s.
Denman is a wonderful place, once you have overcome the complexities of the breakfast toaster, and helped the carpet fund by enjoying an evening G+T. Does Denman hold the world record for sales of Gin and Tonic? Denman allows you to eat, drink and sleep the WI. Was that really Janice Langley, our National Chairman, on the next table? Denman is a melting pot which brings the whole NFWI organisation together.
So I have a multitude of assignments to complete. These must wait, I’m off now to join the ‘WI Walks’ Girls who are travelling through the Cheshire Federation today, on the 185mile Trans Pennine Trail, all to raise funds for the Denman College Appeal. I will take scones to enjoy for eleven’s, and give them as much support as they need.
Training as an Adviser gives you a whole new outlook on life. If the idea interests you, please don’t lose out; get in touch with the office at 11 White Friars to let Selina and our WIas know you would like to find out more about us.
Joining in the WI Walks
A WI Adviser is an ordinary WI member who has chosen to take her membership further.
A WI Adviser is trained and appointed by NFWI to work under the direction of her federation Board of Trustees and is a member of the Organisation and Membership Sub-Committee.
It is a voluntary, challenging, time consuming but very rewarding role.
Her responsibilities include: – Forming new WIs and promoting the WI
WI Advisers have to be able to act as communicators, counsellors and mediators, to make sure that members know all that is available to them and to help them get value for their subscription.
The training is in modular format (3 sessions) at Denman College and fairly arduous with preparation and follow up work to be done, but the result is a thoroughly worthwhile experience.
If you are interested in becoming a WI Adviser or would like further information please contact Selina Prescott – Federation Vice Chairman and Chairman of Organisation and Membership Sub-Committee, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
167 Presidents from our WIs in Cheshire met for lunch on 30th April.
The Banners and Bunting received are amazing. Congratulations everyone on your hard work.
Jane Parry inspired everyone with her history of the 100 years of WI to date and what we have achieved to take us forward for the next 100 years.