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Dear member,

You may recall from our email towards the end of last year that we were discussing whether to continue Hampshire Friends with M.E. (HFwME) as a physical organisation. Thank you to those of you who completed the survey attached to the email, and for the many helpful suggestions that were made.

The survey revealed a majority were not in favour of continuing the charity in its physical form. However, there was a significant minority who did want to keep HFwME going, and a few members stepped forward to volunteer their services. After much deliberation, we concluded that there are good reasons to extend the life of HFwME. Firstly, things have been quite stagnant over the past two years with the various lockdowns, and even thereafter with people perhaps not wanting to venture out as much as they previously did. But as things continue (hopefully) to settle down, it's possible that purely online interaction will seem a less attractive proposition than getting together face-to-face on occasion. Secondly, there are a lot of people now suffering with Long-Covid (which of course is very related to ME), and we would like to offer them a "home" alongside our ME/CFS members.

We also feel there is likely to be a lot of unmet need out there since the lockdowns, amongst both people with ME/CFS and with Long-Covid. Many new members have joined us in the past few weeks alone. Not everyone has a Facebook account, nor wants to communicate just via Facebook.  We therefore felt it was important to keep a foothold in the real world.

It is not envisaged that HFwME will take the same form as in the past. We are not at this time able to offer that level of services or support. Rather HFwME's main purpose will now primarily be to facilitate friendship and mutual support, and the provision and exchange of information (mainly via the website). Because of this, membership will from now on be free, at least for the time being.

A new team has been assembled to take HFwME into its next phase. Our grateful thanks to each of them for volunteering. Here are the members of the team (A/C = Area Coordinator):

  • Trustees                                    Nick Farrar & Hui Min

It will be seen from the team list that the county has been divided into three areas, each with its own designated Area Coordinator (A/C). This will hopefully give members more of a geographical point of focus. However, any member can of course attend any meet-up, no matter where it's held. We realise these areas are rather large at the moment, but it's to be hoped they may be made smaller over time if and when meet-ups are started in different locations. Anyone interested in meeting up, please feel free to get in touch with one of the A/Cs on the given email address. If in any doubt which A/C to contact, or if you have any other queries, please contact the Acting General Coordinator (email address above). Details of meets will of course continue to be made available in the Facebook group.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a significant call for meet-ups as time goes on. Please do get in touch if you yourself might be interested in arranging an event or meet-up near to where you live. Zoom meetings may also be offered as an alternative to meeting face-to-face. We are always mindful of our more severely affected members, and a short Zoom meeting could be a viable option. Please let us know if you might be interested.

You'll see from the team list that we now have a Publicity Officer, Jackie Elwin. The idea is that Jackie will be able to support meet-ups or events by arranging for publicity, eg an advert in a local or county newspaper. Many thanks to Jackie for agreeing to take on this important role.

Many members have joined us purely by visiting the group's website, rather than via Facebook. The website has indeed been our main window to the world for many years, and it will remain the gateway to joining the group. We have been updating the website over the past few weeks - please do take a look if you have time and energy. We hope that details of meetings and events held in public places will in due course be publicised on the website, perhaps with little post-event or meeting write-ups as we've done before.

Regarding the Facebook group, we are retaining the system by which new members will only be able to join this by first joining HFwME as a member. In this way the data protection measures that we set up for the Facebook group are preserved. The payment condition for joining has now been removed.

The subsidised Christmas meals were the new team's first organised events. It is hoped that more events and meet-ups will be organised as the year goes on. However, we're conscious that times may have changed and that there may not be as much call for these as in the past. We'll therefore be playing things by ear to some extent as time goes on, but for now we feel glad to be able to continue HFwME in a physical form.

With very best wishes,

Nick and Hui Min

HFwME Trustees

February 2023