A brighter future for Sarah thanks to digital skills and Electronic Village

10 Apr 2017

When Sarah (not her real name) from Dewsbury, first heard about the digital skills classes at local Online Centre Electronic Village, she was a bit apprehensive to go along. But after seeing how prominent digital now is in everyday life, including how it could help her with her medical conditions, she decided to pop along and see what all the fuss was about - and she’s never looked back since!

Sarah says: “I first heard about Electronic Village some years ago. I thought it sounded interesting but decided that it really wasn’t for me. I suffer from several health conditions and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the learning.

“Two years ago it cropped up again in conversation and I was still a bit apprehensive as to just what they did and what it would be like there. As an adult, it’s always harder to take your first steps into a learning environment. But eventually, I decided just to bite the bullet and go along.”

Health and wellbeing

Sarah’s health conditions include spondylosis in the spine and neck - a very painful condition which results from the degeneration of the intervertebral discs - osteoarthritis in all joints, fibromyalgia - a rheumatic condition causing muscular and musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localised tenderness at specific points on the body - in all muscles and bulging discs on six vertebra, which is symptomatic of spondylosis.

Sarah says: “I don’t really like to talk about my medical conditions but they do sometimes mean that I have to take time out from my life, including the computer classes at Electronic Village.”

Digital Exclusion

When Sarah first went to Electronic Village, she had very little experience with computers. She says: “I had virtually no skills. I feared the computer and didn’t really understand the flexibility of it. Everything they showed me at that first lesson was new to me. What I had done on computers in the past, I had been talked through by someone else. I hadn’t learned how to do anything for myself.

“My first lesson was a start-up class, which is what I think everyone should do at the beginning of their digital skills journey. It might seem easy to some people but for beginners, the simple basics of starting up a computer is a daunting task.”

Digital Health Skills

Sarah used Good Things Foundation’s Learn My Way online learning platform to learn more digital skills, including how to use digital health resources. She says: “I was introduced to Learn My Way and I was surprised at the vast array of day-to-day things it covered, like online banking, shopping, job searching, emailing, and online safety. I was especially interested in the online health stuff.

“There are so many things out there on the World Wide Web and you’re only a click away from finding out all you need to know. Personally - health-wise - all I’ve done so far online is booked appointments with my doctor. I deal with things one day at a time and try to handle what my illnesses give me. But I know that for many people the online world can be a comfort, especially being able to look up information and find out all they can about their illnesses.”

Electronic Village really has helped Sarah in ways she couldn’t have imagined and, having taken a break from learning due to health issues, she has now returned to the centre to volunteer in the Learn My Way classes, sharing her own learner journey with others.

Sarah says: “For me, gaining knowledge has been the best thing about the centre and Learn My Way. There is no other place like Electronic Village - having the support there and also knowing I can always call in when I’m struggling has been amazing.

“The thing that inspired me to go along in the first place was the fact that we now live in a digital world. It’s all about the mouse and keyboard, the handheld devices; nowadays even people like me - a manual worker - find themselves needing digital skills. Before coming to Electronic Village I really did feel all at sea with the world around me. The only way to get some order back was to pick up the gauntlet and lear.

“My new digital skills have helped me to become more confident and independent. From looking for jobs to getting the bus, or even fun things like looking at cinema times. You name it, it’s out there! And I’m really excited to be helping others to learn about all this stuff too.”

Digital Solutions

Thanks to getting online, Sarah feels like her future is much brighter and can honestly say that she’d recommend learning digital skills to anyone. She says: “I’ve already suggested to others who are a bit apprehensive like I was, to come along to the centre and start using Learn My Way. I think it’s one of the most important tools in today’s world.

“In my opinion, Electronic Village is the best place to learn computer skills as you have all the support you could ever need. You go at your own pace and there’s no pressure. All the adults there are in the same boat, and you all just have a laugh. It’s a really fun and laid back atmosphere.

“I really don’t know where I’d be today without their help.”