In a breakout room during a Chime In session, Judy-Anne Tumber (District 36 Peterborough) met two Janets. Janet Spindloe lived in Peterborough, too, but didn’t know another local RTOERO member, Gabriele Southby. Janet Neatby (District 8 London, Middlesex) did; she and Southby were long-time friends. Tumber later invited Spindloe to a District 36 luncheon, where they met Southby and other RTOERO members in her neighbourhood.
“It was another wonderful way of making connections thanks to Chime In,” says Tumber, who occasionally drops in to the RTOERO Foundation program. “It’s a bit of mystery theatre in that you just never know what will happen. But we often know people in common or go down memory lane, and shared experiences make for great conversations.”
Joel Eisenberg (District 16 City of Toronto) hasn’t met anyone local yet and doesn’t have a “small world” experience like Tumber’s, but he finds regular participation in Chime In to be worthwhile, too.
“It’s successful at fostering interaction among members, and I enjoy being able to talk to other teachers with different backgrounds and locations,” he says. “Even though it’s not in person, it’s a good way to reduce isolation, and the hour goes by quickly.”
Those are exactly the kind of connections and social activity Chime In is meant to spark.
Canadians of all ages have had less social interaction over the pandemic. Feedback from RTOERO members suggested that the foundation needed to take action on social isolation in addition to raising the profile of the issue during an awareness campaign every October. The foundation agreed, launching the Chime In program in October 2021.
“We want to get back to a state where we all have meaningful social connection in our lives once again,” explains Mike Prentice, executive director of the foundation. “We chose the name to reflect our wish for the program, that members on each online chat will feel free to join the conversation — chime in — with thoughts and ideas.”
Of course, Zoom is no substitute for an in-person encounter, and Chime In isn’t supposed to replace face-to-face interaction. Instead, online chats are a great way to expand your social circle, or stay connected when the weather’s bad, or manage mobility issues.
And, as RTOERO members have discovered, an online friendship is often the doorway to an in-person one.
Here’s how it works.
Chime In is an hour-long online chat every Wednesday, which you join on Zoom or by telephone. The chat takes place in French from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST and in English from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST.
You only need to register once, at rtoerofoundation.ca/chimein (English) or rtoerofondation.ca/onjase (French). You can then join in as often as you’d like for all or part of the hour. You’ll receive reminder emails each week with the Zoom link and telephone number. You’re also welcome to invite friends, neighbours or family who might enjoy the chat.
Tammy Gonsalves, manager of philanthropy for the foundation, hosts the English chats. Her colleague Deanna Byrtus, manager of donor relations, is online for the French chat, called On jase, which started in May 2021, and there are volunteer bilingual hosts to help keep the conversation flowing.
“I’m mostly active early in the chat, to welcome participants and prompt conversation, if needed,” Gonsalves says.
She sometimes offers conversation starters, such as “What would you do with a lottery win?” or “What person has had a big impact on your life?” If the group is big enough, she’ll assign people to breakout rooms, mixing up the participants at the half-hour mark and then bringing everyone together again at the end of the hour. This gives participants a chance to meet a variety of people.
“We have some regulars who come every week and have become great friends,” Gonsalves says. “We also have people who drop in occasionally. Either way, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and everyone seems to enjoy the conversation and connection. We encourage RTOERO members to try it at least once and see if it’s for them.”
Eisenberg tried Chime In and has become a regular. “I put it on my calendar and look forward to Chime In almost every Wednesday,” he says.
“Chime In is only an hour out of your day, but you’d be surprised the conversations that go on and who you might meet,” adds Tumber. “I’m grateful that the RTOERO Foundation introduced it.”
For more information on Chime In or help signing up, email [email protected] or call 1-800-361-9888.
More members chime in about Chime In
“Chime In is intended for those who wish to enlarge their circles, meet new people, enjoy conversations and contribute to discussions of interest. It is certainly an awesome way to spend one hour of my week.”
—Polly C., District 23 North York
“Chime In was a bright light in a very dark time, and I am so happy that the RTOERO Foundation took the initiative to host these events to improve connection among us.”
—Edith H., District 28 Region of Durham
“[Chime In] is especially beneficial if you cannot go out due to inclement weather — and it would also be a comfort to those members who cannot go out due to poor health or mobility issues.”
—Janet N., District 8 London, Middlesex
Moving? Think about transferring to make more local connections
When Janet Spindloe moved to District 36, she stayed part of District 24 (Scarborough and East York). She hadn’t realized she could stay connected to her original district with a social or associate membership but transfer full membership to the new local one to make connections closer to home. That’s what Judy-Anne Tumber did 11 years ago, when she moved to Peterborough from Scarborough.
Members who make the switch won’t see any change in coverage under RTOERO, but you may need to get your old district newsletter online. And don’t forget to let the office know your new mailing address!