By Edna Einsiedel
It is not surprising that interest in global issues is high among CALL members and nowhere is this more evident than the existence and growth of World Events interest groups in CALL. There are currently three groups that are focused solely on international events and a fourth one that is primarily Canadian focused but occasionally wanders into an international topic. All these groups continue to "meet” via Zoom, and a fifth is likely to open up.
The first discussion group which meets every other Monday afternoon has the longest history, having been started as a Current Events group by Ona Stonkus nine years ago as one of CALL’s first interest groups. Ona continues to facilitate this Monday group which shifted its focus to solely international news and issues and the group has been capped at 12. The waiting list for this group spawned a new Current Events group that meets Thursdays and is facilitated by Ron Foyer and David Elliott. This group chose a domestic focus but also occasionally discusses an international topic.
A few years later, another long waiting list led to the third group, this time also focusing only on World Events. This group has been meeting every other Wednesday, facilitated by David Sheridan. A fourth group also soon emerged, also centered on global issues and now meets twice a month on Friday with Donna Crawford as Facilitator.
Group 1 (the Monday group) had its first COVID-19 discussion in very early February just as the first few cases were appearing outside China. COVID-19 incidentally stands for Corona Virus Disease of 2019. There has been no lack of issues growing out of this global pandemic including the unexpected positive environmental impacts and how cities have been taking opportunities to rethink urban spaces. Other issues have included various dimensions of the climate change challenge and recovery packages that build on a green economy. There have also been spirited discussions around the continuing ‘usefulness’ of the United Nations, the on-going debates around the Israeli-Palestinian border proposals, and more recently, the issues raised by Black Lives Matter events including reparations and systemic racism.
Graham McFarlane who has been a member of this Monday group since Day 1 confesses he’s a news junky who’s also been kept on his toes by his group’s varied topics and discussions. As he observed, “There’s so much I don’t know and members of the group have continually kept me up to date on newsworthy events I know little about. All in all, it’s lifelong learning!”
The second World Events discussion group with David Sheridan is now almost three years ‘old’ and also currently meets twice a month on Zoom. Each member volunteers twice a year to make a longer 30-minute presentation followed by an open discussion. The second half features three short seven-minute presentations followed by lively discussions. Recent topics explored have included the World Health Organization, Russia under President Putin, the Kurdish people of Western Asia, and Black slave history.
Donna Crawford leads the third World Events discussion group of 15 members, eight of whom also continue to meet via Zoom every other Friday. This group also emerged from interested CALL members on the other groups’ waitlists. A recent longer topic was on what a return-to-school in COVID19 times might look like around the world, sparked by a number of members who were retired primary-secondary and university school teachers in the group. Also covered were issues like human trafficking and the rise of the alt right.
As CALL membership grows and general interest in local, national and international affairs intensifies, the waiting lists each of these groups maintain allow for admission of new participants as some veterans leave. Many groups are finding that meeting via Zoom works best with only about eight or nine participants, so more smaller groups could emerge.
Adrienne Kertzer, Coordinator, Current Issues
Debating whether your Interest Group should meet outdoors? Thanks to David Sheridan, the facilitator of World Events Discussion Group 2, for sharing his notes summarizing the group's first outdoor meeting on July 22. Here's an excerpt from those notes.
"What a wonderful afternoon in the great outdoors! Of our 14 members, three elected not to meet outdoors due to Covid-19 concerns and three others were unavailable. The remaining eight began the meeting in the shade of a giant tree on the south side of the soccer field at Marda Loop. However halfway through, we moved into the glorious warm sunshine.
Members were spaced 7-8 feet apart but were able to hear each other well. Traffic was light on the nearby street and the park was practically deserted. Thankfully, the mosquitoes took the afternoon off! Though the plan was to have a shorter meeting it lasted one hour and forty-five minutes! Then we remained to chat together for another 15 minutes.
Here are a few comments from members:
Plans are to meet by Zoom next time to include the three members who prefer online. Then as the time together today was so refreshing, we will meet outdoors again (alternating between Zoom and outdoors until wintertime).
None of our three topics was even remotely about the coronavirus! But rather focused on our changing world – sometimes changing more rapidly than is generally thought.
The meeting was a success with social distancing maintained throughout. Perhaps other CALL Interest Groups will be encouraged to try meeting outdoors.”
David Sheridan, Facilitator, World Events Discussion Group 2
Check out the Interest Groups with room for new members.
A new Interest Group will start in September – Modern Poetry This group will explore ways of approaching poetry with an emphasis on more modern poets, starting with the Beat Poets of the 1960s and 70s.
Led by CALL member Ria Kinzel, the group will meet by Zoom online, once a month on the second Thursday of the month from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, from September to December. Go to the web page for registration information.
As CALL is growing we need more people to help maintain the quality of what we offer. Take some time and get involved in CALL… meet new people, develop new friendships while providing valuable help.
There are still openings for volunteers for board positions and others to keep CALL programs going. Please check the Volunteer listings and/or email email@example.com to see how you can contribute.
Volunteers are the backbone of CALL. We sincerely thank all of our dedicated volunteers who have contributed and who continue to contribute in making CALL such a wonderfully diverse and interesting organization! We are truly lucky to have such a rich range of life experience in our membership. Your time and talent is immeasurable. Simply put… without YOU—our volunteers—CALL WOULD NOT EXIST!
The CALL membership year is September 1 – August 31, of the following year. The membership team is happy to accept and process renewing memberships as well as new ones at any time throughout the summer. The Board has revised the wording of CALL’s waiver to meet current legal standards. When you are renewing your membership you will be prompted to also renew your agreement to the waiver.
The CALL Newsletter is our way to communicate what is going on in our community. Usually we communicate to members about upcoming events, however, since all CALL gatherings are postponed for an undetermined period of time, we decided to use the newsletters as a way to ‘peek behind the curtain of CALL’, to give some general information about CALL groups and members.
You are invited to send your ideas and suggestions for future issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know what your Interest Groups are doing and your strategies for coping with this situation in which the whole world finds itself. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity; not every submission will necessarily be published.
Meanwhile, be well, stay well in every sense of the word.
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