This week is Volunteers’ Week, a time to say Thank You to all volunteers, especially after this last, exceptionally difficult year. We would like to say a big Thank You to the Digital Champion volunteers.

Digital Champions have been key to the delivery of digital skills support since we set up the DigiKnow network in 2018. And this last year has seen them step up to face new challenges as they provided one-to-one support to residents over the telephone and using video calls, whilst face to face contact wasn’t possible. This meant undertaking online training themselves during the early uncertain days of the pandemic. And just as important as their digital skills, they needed all their skills for listening and communicating, motivating and encouraging people to learn, as well as endless reserves of patience.

In a year when being online and having digital skills has changed from being an advantage, to being essential, the gap between those with access to digital and those without has become wider than ever and the partners in our DigiKnow Alliance have been never more stretched. In the 12 months from April 2020, 1,687 one-to-one remote sessions took place with residents, as well as 319 group Zoom sessions. For some learners this was a replacement of the support they used to receive in face to face classes, but many were new to digital and DigiKnow and the support they were given was life-changing, particularly for those shielding.

This level of support would not have been possible without the volunteer Digital Champions and we are extremely grateful for their ongoing commitment. Whilst some face to face classes are now starting up again, Starting Point Community Learning Partnership, the community lead for DigiKnow will continue to offer remote Digital Champion support for the foreseeable future.

We are hoping to recruit and train more Digital Champions and we are actively promoting this in Volunteers’ Week. We are keen to emphasise that to volunteer as a Digital Champion you only need basic digital skills as there’s training to teach you ways to support learners. The most important skill a volunteer Digital Champion can have is to be enthusiastic about the benefits of being online and be willing to share this with others.

If you’d be interested in becoming a Digital Champion in Stockport, please email us and ask for details of the Digital Champions training sessions.

What do our volunteers say?

Being a Digital Champion means helping people and many of our volunteers say they find it rewarding.

Nothing beats going there and teaching somebody something and then watching them confidently use that. You get a kick out of teaching them and they get a kick out of learning. It works both ways. You feel so good at the end of it when someone’s learnt something. I get loads of people saying ‘I’m too thick to do that’– their words not mine – or ‘I’m too old – I can’t do it’, ‘I’m 85, I can’t learn at my age’. 5 weeks later they’re online, they’re Skyping people, they’re doing all sorts of things. I do this for moments like that, without a doubt. Everybody can learn, can’t they? It’s just a matter of getting the right help.

Paddy McDonald

Digital Champion

I’ve always liked helping people and I’ve always had quite an analytical mind. That’s the sort of thing I like doing because I like solving problems. We all learn in different ways and we’re all comfortable doing different things. With IT, there’s quite often several ways to do things and a way around obstacles. I like trying to help people to find out what works for them as a person. I’m an older person myself and I thought they might feel that if I can do it, somebody of a similar age, they can too. I think that COVID has given us all a bit of a jolt, not only from a health point of view, but from the point of view that we need make sure that technology is more inclusive to all age groups.

Gill Owen

Digital Champion

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