How have former scholars of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in the Philippines been since quarantine started last 17 March 2020? Logging on from different cities in the Philippines and from abroad, Hannsiklub members convened online on 30 July 2020 to find out how their fellow former scholars are doing. Participants swapped stories on how they are coping under the circumstances and exchanged experiences and positive outcomes from being in quarantine. As it was the group’s 2nd General Membership Meeting for 2020, organisational matters as well as future plans were also taken up.
Maintaining contact is essential for the continued fellowship of the former scholars. Aside from keeping one another informed on personal and professional developments, it helps to foster comradeship and reinforce meaningful relationships. More importantly, it enables them to exchange experiences and ideas, and plan future initiatives. Through a cloud-based video conferencing service, Hannsiklub members as far as Canada and Singapore were able to join the meeting, as were those in cities of different regions within the country.
In a situation of constrained mobility and limited logistics services, the former scholars were compelled to juggle additional roles and assume a different range of responsibilities. They found themselves working from home, running businesses, managing teams and organisations, or mentoring and teaching, most of the time, seated in front of a computer monitor. The former scholars began acquiring new knowledge and skills and transferring these to others, thrust as they were into an unusual working environment that required performing the same functions with yet unfamiliar tools.
They observed themselves rising to the challenge and becoming used to fielding several online meetings within a single day, holding online classes, developing online course modules, holding virtual assemblies and attending online seminars. They acknowledged the benefits of the novel situation, which affords their projects and information activities a wider reach, allows them to avoid road traffic and necessitates flexible working arrangements. Unexpected opportunities have emerged for existing initiatives of one; adjustments in eating habits wrought by the situation led another to a healthier lifestyle.
Some expressed having felt the effects of the pandemic more than others, one way or another, with a few still struggling for solutions for their organisations to cope as one remains stranded where he last visited. Still others are hanging on, eager to have a fresh start. Regardless of personal circumstances, the collective hope for the pandemic to end remains.
"Hannsi Klub" was established in 1992 by the Foundation’s former scholars during the first Nachkontaktkonferenz (“Follow-up Contact Conference”) held in the Philippines. The first batch of scholars comprised young professionals from different fields of expertise and left for Munich, Germany, for two-year further training programs in 1983. Several more batches followed in the succedent years. The objectives of the organisation were for the alumni to remain in contact with one another and perpetuate their memories and experiences in Germany, and to maintain and strengthen their contact to Germany and to the Foundation. Hannsiklub currently has more than sixty members based in the Philippines and abroad.
Through its scholarship program, the Hanns Seidel Foundation provides study grants to young professionals who have expressed interest to pursue further studies or training (up to 2 years) in Germany, mainly in fields related to the Foundation's project activities in the country.
Given the developing situation, the Board Members present agreed to meet and discuss the organisation of the Hannsiklub’s regular meetings for the remaining quarters of 2020 and other possible activities. The membership agreed to hold the meetings and the Hannsiklub Oktoberfest 2020 face-to-face, should conditions allow, or should the prevailing circumstances so compel, online.
Participants expressed gladness and gratitude for having had the chance to see one another again somehow, with the aid of technology. Apart from the stories exchanged and challenges shared, assistance was also extended in support of the predicaments or projects of fellow members. The meeting served to further renew bonds of friendship and strengthen the Hannsiklub as professional support group for its members.
The 3rd Hannsiklub General Membership Meeting for the year is planned for October 2020.