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IT club opens window of opportunity for Jan

19 June 2013

Getting involved in local projects can so often lead to other great things, whether that be further volunteering, the opportunity to improve skills and confidence or the chance to meet new, exciting people.

For Jan Tchamani, founder of the Grove Road Estate – Inclusion Project, offering IT classes to local people was just the start. In March of this year she was named joint-Age UK Internet Champion of the Year and last week she was appointed as a Digital Leader at the National Digital Conference. In this guest blog, she explains how the project she helped create has reached out to severely disadvantaged people, giving them the means to get out, get active and get online.

Jan Tchamani

Jan pictured with her husband, Terry

When I put together my application to the Big Lottery Fund for our Social Inclusion Project, I had very specific aims to do with improving the lives of everyone who lives on the sheltered housing scheme for the over-50s where I live with my husband.

The Grove Road Estate is made up of two tower blocks with 68 flats, most of which have solitary tenants. Most are here because at some time in our lives the rug was pulled out from under us by redundancy, ill health or some other unforeseen circumstance. We try to make the best of things, and the funding has helped us all get out and get active – and make friends.

At the very heart of the project was the IT Club. I’ve seen too many examples of older people at a severe disadvantage not to be passionate about digital inclusion and as a result the club has flourished.

We had several absolute beginners when we started last autumn. Now we have a group of committed people who not only handle their own needs online but are willing and able to help the ‘newbies’ who are still coming along every week. The atmosphere in our community room on Tuesdays is positive and welcoming. We’ve become a team.

People stay on to chat about other issues that beset them, and every week we witness those ‘small acts of kindness’ that make life worthwhile: members spending time alongside someone demonstrating how to use a dongle or set up a Facebook page, or making a cuppa and toast for someone who is struggling to get to grips with the intricacies of email or online shopping.

People using computers at a funded club

Local people get involved in a computer class run by the project

What I didn’t foresee was what this would do for me personally. I acquired my IT skills when I did my teacher training aged 39 and I’m a confident user. So imagine my surprise and delight when, in March 2013, I became Age UK Internet Champion.

Age UK contacted my husband Terry and me to invite us to a gala awards night at the Royal Society in London, and I received my trophy from the lovely June Whitfield. What a proud moment that was.

I’ve had writing opportunities too, which is very exciting as writing has always been my passion. Also, I was awarded the title of Digital Leader at the ND13 Conference just last week, thanks to a nomination from Age UK.

Later this month I’ll be attending a citywide digital inclusion meeting where we’ll be discussing how to help Birmingham citizens make the most of the new technologies – especially those who are at a disadvantage. Running this funded project has really opened a window of opportunity for me.

Are you inspired by Jan’s story? Have you been involved in a local project helping people get online? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter @biglotteryfund.

Want more? Projects across the country are proving that age is no barrier to those wanting to keep pace with technology. Read Betty Holden’s blog as she tells us how she inspired others to take their first steps on the Internet.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 June 2013 3:42 pm

    Brilliant blog Jan! As a key member of our Grey Pride community site for older people, I’m very proud of everything I’ve seen you achieve over the last couple of years and love reading your blogs 🙂
    Kathryn

    • Big Lottery Fund permalink*
      20 June 2013 3:54 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Kathryn. The Grey Pride site looks great, thanks for flagging it to us. Best wishes.

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  1. One trailblazer, three projects…and a great journey | The Big Lottery Fund Blog

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