I’ve lived in Bristol for over three years now and have met a lot of fantastic people, but since starting my role as Get IT Together Project Coordinator 5 weeks ago I have met 49 citizens of Bristol who have exceeded my expectations of what volunteers and over 55’s can accomplish. I have been completely overwhelmed by the quality and enthusiasm of the 13 volunteers who I co-ordinate and who give up to 3-6 hours of their own time each week to teach elderly people how to use a computer and get online. The volunteers in Bristol range from computer science students wanting to gain experience with working with people, to project managers taking an afternoon out of their schedule to give something back to their community, to mums training towards a PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) qualification.
Some of my favourite moments since starting have been with the 36 new learners we’ve been teaching, most of whom have been through the whole five week course now.
The enthusiasm of the new learners who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is infectious and makes me want to organise hundreds more courses so we can get everyone who would like reap the benefits of being empowered to use a computer can.
So far this year our learners ages range from 55 – 82. I have quickly realised the importance of half time tea and biscuits and have never had a session where there has not been a giggle and laugh and some point.
I’ve really come to appreciate how natural computers are for my generation. A generation who were introduced to computers from a young age and taught IT at school. Thats one of the first things many of the volunteers acknowledge in our first sessions with new learners. They understand and relate to the learners how alien, scary or intimidating a computer can be for people who have never come in to contact with one and there is no reason for example that a first timer would know that a mouse works on a flat surface as opposed to using it like a remote control in the air.
As an end note to this little introduction to Bristols happenings I’m going to share some quotes I’ve collected from some of our learners at the computer clubs. It gives an insight into the sessions we run and the conversations that arise
“I’m useless at computers and relatives cant be bothered to show me how to do email”
“Skype! thats what I want! my daughter lives in Australia”
“People show me what to do then leave”
“I don’t know how to close down, I can’t get rid of things very easily and I’m worried i’ll brake it”
“i’d like to get a photo of my grandchildren on the computer”
“I lost my husband 4 years ago, I get lonely at night, it would be nice to make new friends in my area”
“I see my son once a week, he helps me a bit”
“I’m a natural drag and dropper!”
“Oh! I could email maintenance and tell them I’ve got water dripping down my wall”
“Whats the difference between a website and the internet?”
Re: Facebook – “We wont need to go out soon!”
“Why do we have big desktops instead of laptops? I’ve seen people on the train who have all their business stuff on a laptop”
Re: wi-fi : “So if someone walked past my house with a laptop and i had wi-fi they could steal all my photos?”
I can’t wait to see who else is going to exceed my expectations this year.