A pair of digital champions from Newcastle are helping to get people online – and they’re getting so much out of the experience they’ve even become the poster boys of this year’s national Get Online Week!
Keith Connelly, and Ray Orrick, both became digital supporter volunteers – or digital champions – because they wanted to give something back to the Byker community where they live.
They work for the Online Centre run by Newcastle housing association Byker Community Trust, and it’s their job to help residents get online, and get the most of out of computers and the internet.
For Ray, it was a bit of a steep learning curve. He explains: “When I saw this call for digital champions I knew it could be right up my street. I also knew I had a lot of learning to do, because the last time I used a computer it was all floppy discs and enormous monitors that took up half your desk.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was handed one of these tablet things and I was a bit daunted. I was definitely the new kid on the block, so to speak! I soon worked my way through the Learn My Way courses, though, and I found them really easy to follow. As far as I’m concerned that put me in the best possible position to teach other people because I’ve been there myself. And I can say that if I can do it, so can they.”
Keith had a bit more digital experience and has used the internet for pretty much as long as he can remember. He adds: “I love being online, and I enjoy passing that on to other people, too. There’s so much interesting stuff out there, and so much that can help people with their day-to-day life – whether that’s looking for a job, booking a Doctor’s appointment, filling in a form, comparing prices on energy bills, or keeping in touch with friends and family.”
“We start at the very beginning,” continues Ray. “So we can show people a computer or tablet, help them turn it on, explain all about the programmes or apps and how it all works. And then we help people do whatever it is that they’re interested in. Small steps are the trick. You can’t expect people to get things in two minutes flat – they have to be doing something they’re interested in and they have to go slow and steady.”
Keith says: “I’ve been helping a lovely lady recently called Marion. She’s got family over in Australia and she really wanted to learn how to use Skype. Together she’s set up her account and made her first call – face-to-face.”
“We both get a lot out of being digital volunteers,” says Ray. “It gives you something to do, creates an interest, and gets you out and about meeting people. And there are some brilliant people in Byker.
“If you’ve got a bit of push in you and you feel you’ve got a contribution to make, this is a great way to do it. You can see people getting better with the technology, really getting it, and getting so much out of it, too. That’s a pretty good feeling.”
Neither of the lads has ever been asked to star on a poster before, but they both thoroughly enjoyed their photo shoot.
“If seeing our mugs on a poster helps someone realise that a bunch of folks like us are sat ready and waiting to help them get to grips with computers, then it’s well worth it,” says Ray.
“It’s definitely not all technical,” agrees Keith. “Just ordinary people like us who can help you do things online. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been online before or if you already know a bit. Go along to your local Get Online Week event and see where getting online could get you.”
Hear more from Keith and Ray in their very own video: