These last weeks have been challenging for everyone as we adjust to the new normal of staying at home while our brilliant NHS work tirelessly to tackle the Coronavirus outbreak. We know that many of our own members are also key workers and we can’t thank them enough for everything they are doing. It is extremely hard not to be able to see friends and family and the constant stream of news about the virus can be scary and overwhelming. However, this situation has already shown the strength of our communities and the importance of being there for one another, even if we’re physically apart.

The WI has always thrived through difficult times and for over 100 years it’s remained at the heart of its communities, supporting those in need. Over the last few weeks, WI members have been showing their resilience and collective strength in many ways, and we have seen examples of this community support being stronger than ever. In these circumstances, the most important thing WI members can do is prioritise social interactions, in order to help combat loneliness and improve mental health.

Borough Belles WI virtual meeting using Zoom

Borough Belles WI virtual meeting using Zoom

All over social media, we have seen members taking their WIs virtual - whether this means holding their meeting via Zoom or Skype, setting up virtual Facebook events, setting up online sub-groups (book, film, craft, cookery, and more) or even just ensuring no member is feeling isolated. We are actively encouraging and supporting WIs to develop #MyVirtualWI in whatever way suits their membership in order to make the most of their WI network, despite not being able to go to meetings.

While many members are fully embracing the possibilities of using social media and the internet to connect with their WI, it is important to remember there are many WI members who don’t use the internet and don’t have the same access to technology as others. It is wonderful to see WIs setting up buddy systems and telephone trees to ensure all their members are kept in touch. Alongside this, WIs are joining local community efforts to help vulnerable people get shopping and medical supplies. If you are looking to support a local initiative, you can sign up to the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme, contact your local Age UK or simply reach out to vulnerable members of your WI or community to see if they need help with anything.

St Mary's West Wickham WI hosted a cookalong via Facebook Live for its members

St Mary's West Wickham WI hosted a cook along via Facebook Live for its members

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be showcasing case studies on social media, My WI and the website of extraordinary members doing extraordinary things to keep their community strong during these extraordinary times. We are asking all WIs to share what they have been doing on social media, using the hashtag #MyVirtualWI to acknowledge their efforts to keep the WI going.

We also have many resources for members on My WI including:

Additionally, you can find a number of recipes, craft projects and video tutorials in the sections below:

Remember that if you need support or have any questions we are always here for you, so please do get in touch with us.

If you’re not yet a member of the WI but you’re looking to connect with your local WI virtually during this time, please contact our membership team at membership@nfwi.org.uk.

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