This Volunteers Week (1-7 June), we want to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say Thank You to them. The DigiKnow alliance has over 40 Digital Champion volunteers who help out regularly at classes across Stockport. We recently spoke to Dave Kelly, who volunteers at Starting Point’s DigiKnow session held on Thursdays at Cornerstone.
DigiKnow and Starting Point have become a lifeline for me and also for the people I’m helping. It’s a social activity with computer training! It’s created a little community. The attendees all say it’s a good networking event because they get out and get to chat to people. And so do I. It’s good for me because I was isolating for 3 years, and last year I had 16 weeks in hospital, so going to DigiKnow helped me get used to people again.
It’s helped me get used to working again too, even though it’s not really work, teaching people stuff. My support worker suggested I became a Digital Champion because of my interest in IT. In my days when I used to work in construction on the railways, I used to visit all our construction sites and the guys there who drove the diggers and such, are from different backgrounds, and most of them had never had to use computers before. If they had a problem and they called IT, it would take them hours to get through, because there were only 3 of them, and we had 15 sites in the north. And that meant they couldn’t do reports or print plans until it was fixed. And you know what it’s like when you call IT. They use all these strange words, and you think, what on earth is that!
So, when I went round to do my own duties, I’d also help people out with various software problems, plus things like scanners and printers. They’d save it up for me. I got quite familiar with basic stuff on computers and as they all had different types of computers and different versions of software, I took it upon myself to start writing crib sheets for people and circulating them to the different sites. When they went onto a new site, they’d print it off and stick it up on the wall so everyone could see it. And it taught them as well as they could pick up the tips I gave them because they were in layman’s terms, not in IT speak.
They were quite useful skills to pick up as a sideline to my own duties, and it felt good to pass that knowledge on. So, I started volunteering here. Sometimes I’ve gone around to answer questions from different people in the class, and some weeks I’ve been able to sit with someone who needs a bit more help, like Alan and Frank.
It’s great helping Alan, we have a lot in common, we talk about our experiences in the forces, and we both know a bit about electronics. We’ve started going for a coffee after the class – and we do talk about computers as well!
Alan, who’s 95 says “this class has been fantastic for me. I come for the natter as well as help with my computer. Dave has been a real help, I’d like to get better at using my laptop, but the chat is a great reason to get out the house.”
Frank, who is in his 60s, used to work in very practical, physical jobs, he always says he didn’t use to have to deal with computers, but now all the jobs are on the internet. I’m helping him write his CV. He’s never had a CV before, but now he’s got one! He’s learning to use email so he can send CVs over to them, and he’s thinking of doing some online courses as well.
Frank says, “It’s good to know this class is here. Volunteers like Dave are great, there is always someone to sit with you, I’m stumped by some questions, but by the end of the class, it seems less of a mystery”
I really look forward to my volunteering day once a week. It’s really rewarding. In fact, DigiKnow is going to start a new class at Cheadle Library, and I’m going to go along as a volunteer there too, so that’s another day out for me, as well as helping other people. After being isolated myself for so long, getting down here has helped me as well as helped them. It’s surprising how many people are isolated. I know because I live in a top-floor flat and no one passes my door, so the only person I used to see was the postman.
I’ve been helped by so many people. It’s nice to give something back. I’d like to get the word out there to more people about these sessions. They help you get out, you can join a nice little community and enhance your computer skills. Or if you haven’t got any, you can start. It’s surprising how many people don’t know where to start. Our class is getting busier as the people that come for help here tell their friends, but there’s room for more.
DigiKnow has got sessions all over the place – Woodley, Marple and Cheadle soon, so it’s not restricted to one place. Clara and James from Starting Point, that run this one are super friendly, and it’s great that they provide this service. During the lockdowns, a serious amount of people were completely isolated, not having the use of a computer or mobile phone to get in touch with the outside world. I ask attendees to spread the word at other classes they do. People tell their friends at cookery classes about the digital classes. Everyone passes tips to each other – I’m interested in a foraging class now! So, it’s the same for all us volunteers, attendees and tutors –everyone gets something out of it.
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering as a DigiKnow Digital Champion or book one of the regular free training sessions online, visit our Digital Champions page.
If you come across people who aren’t online or need help doing things online, the DigiKnow community network can help. There are free group classes across Stockport, and many community groups also offer help with digital skills alongside their regular activities. Cheaper broadband and phone packages are available for those on low incomes, or they may be able to borrow a device and data from the DigiKnow Device Library for free. Call the DigiKnow Helpline on 07724 217888, ask at your local library, or visit our DigiKnow web pages for more information.
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