National Council Members Page

No 4 Area
(The South West Flotilla)

National Council Member’s Report September 2021

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Simon Meerza on the recent award of a certificate of appreciation and add my personal thanks for all he does for Christchurch & District Branch and the wider community.

Whilst the rules say that every Branch needs a chairman and secretary etc. what every successful Branch needs are General Dogs Bodies, these are the very soul of the branch, doing the mundane tasks, fetching and carrying, running an oppo to the doctors, the friendly phone call when someone is not well.  These are the people who make the difference, make the RNA what it is and more often than not these are the very people we forget to thank.

The last 2 years have changed all our lives, and as always happens in times of need many have stepped up to the plate, those that were content to just turn up and sit at the back of the class have often been the unexpected bonus.  Shopping for those that were isolating, chatting on the phone, couldn’t operate the microwave before without the granddaughter’s assistance now hosting zoom meetings for the whole branch.  It is gratifying to see how many Branches have held monthly meetings via zoom which of course had the added bonus of enabling those that can’t normally attend to be fully involved.  Some branches have held weekly zoom coffee mornings and some plan to continue with these as additions to the normal meetings.  Nationally there are the fire side chats and the tot times. So, for what are often thought of as a bunch of old codgers we seem to have mastered this button crunching lark quite well and of course grandchildren do have their uses.  Sadly, on the other side of the coin there are those that withdrew into their shells in March 2020 and are just beginning to emerge looking dazed and asking what’s been happening.

Well, what has been happening since we all met in Dorchester which seems like an eternity ago.

The RNA has probably undergone the biggest period of change and improvement since its creation.  The willingness to embrace and utilise the latest technologies by the Central Office team has transformed the way in which we operate. National Council and committee meetings have been held via zoom (as well as last year’s conference).  These have proved so successful that it is planned to hold at least half of the meetings in the future on zoom in order to alleviate the necessity to travel.

The introduction of the central data base alleviates the need for much of the annual form filling, and means we know how many of us there are and where we live, and it is much easier to keep in touch.  We now all get the Semaphore Circular and its little spin off instantly instead of waiting for someone to bring it back to the next meeting.  Anything emanating from Central Office can reach us instantly instead of laboriously going through area sec to branch sec to members or being read out as ‘Correspondence’ at the next meeting.

The change to a donation-based system was a really bold move, secured by the RNRMC underwriting the initiative, not only has this ensured our financial future over the coming years but is already producing the required results with approximately 2500 new members so far this year.

There is now a wealth of new talent in central office all operating on a professional basis, we’ve mentioned communications managed by Charlie and Mike, dedicated Welfare (or wellbeing support to be PC) Lynda working with the National welfare advisor Geoff and his Deputy. Sarah ex Chief Writer who has taken over from Nigel on Membership support and Malcolm who is a whizz at Marketing and getting money out of people and companies. Kathryn has replaced Michelle on Financial support, Julie has renewed funding (70k over 2 years) for the supply of i-Pads under the shipmates and oppos scheme which has taken on a new lease of life, over a thousand i-Pads set up so far, with plenty more available to those who need them.

These are all professionals with a host of connections so don’t hesitate in asking for advice or assistance, that’s what they are there for.

The team have developed much closer working relationships with other military charities in order to improve the service we can offer to our wider community.  These include the RNRMC, SAFA, RNBT Naval Families Federation, Help for Heroes etc.

Sparko-TV is an absolute boon for all those who have seen it, if you know someone who could benefit or you want to give it a go yourself get in touch, remember it is installed and set up for free and it comes with a remote control with Big Buttons for when the grand children are not available.

I could go on and on, those who went to conference are probably saying why didn’t he mention this or that, but I’ve got a long drive back to Cornwall so I’m keeping it short.

Suffice to say the RNA is in really good shape, the future is bright and we should all be optimistic.

So as the saying goes go back home, tell them of us, whip up the enthusiasm, embrace the younger breed queuing to join, for they are your replacements on the committee.

S/m Warwick Belfitt

NCM No 4 Area