In April, 2010, Harry and I were invited to attend a function with the University of the Third Age (Costa Brava). Seeing so many anglophones sharing and engaging in a huge number of educational, creative and leisure activities made me wonder if it would be possible to start a similar group here in the Pyrenees Oriental. Like many of you, I am sure, I was sometimes frustrated with my inadequate knowledge of the French ways; although we have many French friends, and have been welcomed into their homes and activities, we miss certain nuances of the British way of life. So I urged some of my friends to join me, we advertised for more like-minded souls, and hesitantly formed a launch committee to see if there was sufficient interest to form our own version of a University of the Third Age.
The rest, as they say, is history. We drew up a list of suggestions and outlined how we thought we could proceed. Although the U3A (UK) Trust is no longer able to support ex-pat organisations, they provided us with some very useful guidelines. It was clear that we could use the name but not be affiliated to that organisation, so, we are run entirely by our own members and our U3A can be whatever the members want it to be.
We have a long and varied list of activities and interest groups. We try to keep the curriculum as wide and varied as resources permit, depending on the preferences of members, and welcome suggestions for new groups. Our U3A is non-profit making and self-funding. We have an annual membership which pays for the running costs of the U3A and contributes towards some of the social activities for all the members. A detailed account of our finances is produced every year for the AGM in September. We are registered as an Association with the Bureau des Associations, a copy of the required statute can be found within the newsletter and website. This means that we have the usual Assurance for Associations, and we have a bank account to facilitate the booking of transport and restaurants etc., and the purchase and insurance of required equipment.
We have been amazed at the rapid growth of our U3A, due in part to the enthusiastic group of coordinators who have taken on the various groups. The hard work of our committee throughout these early years has enabled us to realise fully the objectives and principles of our U3A – to develop our intellectual, cultural and aesthetic lives, but above all to provide a network of support and friendship among the anglophones of the Pyrenees Oriental.