A woman from Dinnington and a man living in the Abbeydale area of Sheffield have seen how life-changing digital skills can be, and now they’re inspiring others as stars of this year’s national Get Online Week campaign.
Ali Zain Ali, 32, moved to Sheffield from Yemen after revolution, violence and unrest left the country destabilised and incredibly dangerous. After arriving in Sheffield, Online Centre Learn for Life Enterprise helped Ali improve his English, and gain computer and internet skills. Ali’s confidence in his new skills and his positive attitude led to him volunteering to help refugees and migrants improve their skills, so they’re better able to support themselves, their families and adjust to life in the UK
Laura Jenkin, 26, first came to Computers Within Reach, an Online Centre in Dinnington for help improving her literacy skills in order to better find work. Although she’s a proud gamer and loves technology, she needed help when it came to using the internet to look and apply for jobs.
Both Ali and Laura have so impressed the organisations that have supported them, that they were nominated to appear on posters for Get Online Week 2017, the UK’s biggest digital skills campaign.
Chosen from hundreds of nominations, Ali and Laura are now two of the real-life learners featured on Get Online Week posters and leaflets being displayed up and down the country - encouraging people to get to Try 1 Thing new online as a next step to making more of the internet.
The eleventh annual Get Online Week campaign is run by digital and social inclusion charity Good Things Foundation, and takes place 2-8 October. Each year the adverts inspire tens of thousands to get involved.
Since Ali moved to the UK, the internet has become an essential tool but he needed to start from scratch. He explains: “When I first came here I cannot use phones, computers, nothing. But I was learning English at Learn for Life and they told me about their computer classes and Learn My Way courses.”
“I learned everything, how to turn it on, use a mouse, use the internet, everything. Now it helps me so much. I look for jobs, pay my bills and talk to my parents on the computer.
With his family still in Yemen, it’s essential for Ali to be able to stay in touch. He says: “Yemen is very dangerous now. There are weapons everywhere and lots of shootings. Lots of people don’t have food and water and people get very ill.
“I want to talk to my family, to make sure they have food and water and medicine and can stay safe.”
The internet has done more than anything to make this possible.
“I started to just email my brother but then he says we can video call so I learned how to do this and now we can talk and see each other’s face. I can even talk to my mother. I feel very, very happy with that.
“Now I can also help other people from countries all over the world do the same thing, talk to their families, find work, everything!”
For Laura, technology has always been a part of her life but a few gaps in her knowledge meant she needed help to make sure she was ready for work.
Laura explains: “I’ve had jobs before and done some volunteering but I’ve never found quite the right thing. I know I needed some help with employability skills and that’s where The Learning Community came in. They saw that I needed help using things like Universal Jobmatch to look for work, told me about the classes and I thought, ‘alright, I’ll give that go’.
“I don’t know what I’d do without it. The internet plays a huge part in everything now. In the old days, you could just look for a job in a newspaper but now all that is online.
“I love my XBox but this part of the internet is what I need to help me find a job I love.”
About being a Get Online Week model, Laura says: “Wow, what an experience! It made me feel famous - the photoshoot and all the attention! I just think it’s really important that people know about the internet, what they can do and how to stay safe. Even if people don’t feel confident, I’d just say ‘try it’, there’s always someone out there to help.”
Helen Milner is Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation - the organisation behind the national Online Centres Network and annual Get Online Week campaign. She says: “Laura and Ali are both brilliant adverts for getting online, in really different ways.
“Ali’s story proves what a lifeline the internet can be, keeping us connected to the people we love. Even if family members aren’t thousands of miles away, many people - especially older people - can feel very disconnected and the internet can do great things to remedy that.
“And Laura proves that even younger people who many consider to be ‘digital natives’ often need help using the internet for more complex things like applying for jobs and engaging with local and national government services. Just because they grew up in the digital age, doesn’t mean all young people are experts in every aspect of the internet.
“That’s why Get Online Week, is so important. Not only does it help to raise awareness of digital exclusion, which is still a huge problem even in 2017, it also reaches new people still nervous about doing more online or think it isn’t a priority, helping them find the support they need to take that next step and not get left behind.”
Lloyds Banking Group is sponsoring Get Online Week for the second year running. Lloyds are leaders in digital inclusion, having trained thousands of their staff as Digital Champions and pledged to help millions of people, businesses and charities improve their digital skills.
Russell Galley, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for Yorkshire & Humber says: “Supporting communities to gain essential digital skills is vital to driving social mobility throughout the UK. Campaigns like Get Online Week are a fantastic way for communities to help reduce digital exclusion, helping to raise awareness of the issue and providing a platform for people to develop and improve their digital skills.
“It makes me extremely proud that Lloyds Banking Group is the main sponsor for Get Online Week, for the second year running. This is an example of the great work we are doing in partnership with Good Things Foundation and is an important part of our commitment to helping Britain prosper.”
There are an estimated 15.2 million people in the UK who can’t benefit from everything the internet offers. If you know someone who could do with a helping hand this Get Online Week, there are events taking place across South Yorkshire between 2 and 8 October. Visit www.getonlineweek.com or call the National Careers Service free on 0800 77 1234 to find one near you.