The programme was started and has been running since 2010 across Avon and Somerset in South West England. The goal of the “Let Us Connect” project is to train digitally excluded (1) Older and Elderly People (2) People With Learning Disabilities, and (3) Refugee and Asylum Seekers on the use of computers and the internet to access information that will help them improve the quality of their lives. The three client categories targeted by the programme form three distinct and different ICT training projects. We undertake personalised training for each individual belonging to these categories according to their individual learning plans. Training is undertaken at fixed and mobile Computer Access Points (CAPs) where learners access or can come with their computers, access the internet and receive training. Learners provide a minimum recommended charitable donation or Mend the Gap looks for a sponsor.
The fixed Computer Access Points are at our operational offices in Langford, North Somerset. The mobile CAPs are across a large number of local community facilities across Avon and Somerset with which we have or have had agreements to hire and use specific rooms for training sessions at specified days and times during the week. These venues are close to the targeted beneficiaries and include The Badger Centre in Weston Super Mare, Voscur Conference Room in Bristol, The Brave Training Rooms in Bristol, Keynsham Drop-In Youth Centre, Congressbury Youth Partnership, Wrington Locke Rooms, Easton Business Centre in Bristol, and in the Wesley Rooms and Tithe Barn in Nailsea. The CAPs use notebook computers with long battery lives to reduce the frequent need to recharge batteries. This is because none of the stations had mains electricity or telephone lines to start with.
Dedicated groups of staff and volunteers train learners about the basics of computer hardware and software, health and safety aspects, then on the commonly used Microsoft Office Word, Access and Excel packages and finally on how to use the internet to access information and other free knowledge and learning and teaching resources and to build basic and work skills and encouraged and trained to undertake social welfare activities to reduce isolation, and get or give practical help to others.
The project links and creates bridges between different groups, communities and individual beneficiaries and those with moderate learning and physical disabilities. We provide an opportunity for those with learning disabilities, asylum seekers and refugees to develop work experience by virtual volunteering. We provide personalised ICT training for all types of beneficiaries to keep in touch with family members, find or create employment, improve motor and intellectual skills; improve feelings of self-worth, improve creative and social communication skills, find new interests and educational opportunities through use of the Internet and make new friends in a peer support groups. The project also helps bridge the intergenerational gap; and provides opportunities for sponsorship of individuals, communities and programmes.
Project achievements have included the training of more than 132 young people nationally that aren’t in education, employment or training, 2,019 vulnerable young people across 6 schools and colleges (in aspects of school linking) in a number of our ICT related activities. A number of these young people and students have developed work experience which they have used to secure paid employment or have gone on to volunteer face-to-face or virtually for our projects in UK. Knowledge and skills of the beneficiaries has increased in many spheres of everyday lives from intercultural communication to potentials for e-commerce activities.